As we finish October and move toward November, the High Holy Days for the Hebrew year 5779 are finally behind us. Now that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur for this year have passed, it’s time to thank everyone who helped make our services possible. Our observances during the Days of Awe involved almost every member of our congregation, from those who sing in the choir, to those who participate in the services, to the Ritual Committee who labors long and hard to assign parts and plan services and those who read Torah and Haftarah morning and afternoon. Without all these members, who give of their time and attention, our High Holy Day rituals and ceremonies would be impossible!
This year was particularly challenging. We welcomed our new wonderful student Cantor, Jennifer Benrey, to our synagogue in the year we made our final transition to Mishkan HaNefesh (Sanctuary of the Soul), our new High Holy Day prayer book. Amid a whole new set of cues and service orders, we also had to consider how to adjust our services for a much bulkier prayer book, in both Hebrew and English. Some of the prayers and readings were entirely new, others were familiar, but we moved to the new machzor together as a congregation. Student Cantor Benrey and I could not have done without all of you who volunteered your time to take part in our services.
Every person who read a prayer, opened the ark, undressed or dressed the Torah, blew the shofar, ushered worshippers or played for Simchat Torah added something essential to our services. Those who read Torah or Haftarah brought the words of Hebrew Scripture alive. The ones who labored night after night to identify and call the dozens of participants who supplied the voices to vary our readings and the arms to help carry the burden of leading the prayers and rituals insured that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah would proceed smoothly and carefully. The members who sang in the choir worked particularly hard and long this year, singing evening after evening, afternoon after afternoon, to bring the benefits of chorale music to our congregation. Alongside them, Norman Lindschied, played hours and hours, bringing musical accompaniment to our sanctuary that guided our prayers.
Without all these participants, who volunteered out of love and regard for our congregation, our services would have been impoverished and far less meaningful. These participants speak the words and help perform the rites that give our High Holy Days their character and depth. Thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do to bring heart and soul to our High Holy Day services!
Rabbi Michael D. Howald