Rabbi’s Review – September 2018

Imagining What Might Be

Rabbi Douglas Kohn


Dear Friends,

This is our High Holy Days—the Season of the Year which we will spend together. What do we want these Holy Days to accomplish?

Interestingly, this is rarely a question which we take time to ponder. For most, the High Holy Days are an experience of family and communal gathering, of inspiration, and sometimes, of financial commitments. But, what do we want these sacred days to accomplish? Here are some thoughts.

Could these days be times of imagining what our Temple Beth El might be? If so, then these days could be opportunities for honesty and assessment, reflecting on the achievements and the shortcomings of our Temple community, and dreaming of, “what ifs.” Are we willing to look deeply at our community, as well as at ourselves?

Could we use these days to experiment with new ways to experience sacred assembly as Jews? After all, this will be the second year that we will be worshipping from our new Mahzor—the High Holy Day prayerbook which we introduced last year. It is still a time of discovery, and perhaps this year we can play and try further new practices. In fact, Cantor Davidson and I have given thought to just that idea. If so, what would we wish to achieve in our experimenting—greater clarity, further inspiration, novel ways to connect?

Could we use these days to study our own commitments and contributions to our wider community, and ask if I am one who gives and supports, or one who receives and is supported? What is my role in our corner of the Jewish world? Have I lived up to my potential, or, am I transcending my limits, and finding new fulfillment in my gifts, which only begs of me to reconsider who I am and of what am I capable?

And, could we use these times to become better accustomed to change, as change will be all about us. We light the candles on Erev Rosh HaShanah, and 5778 will dissolve into 5779. A new voice and a new face will be standing on our bima, where other rabbis once were at home. And, this New Year will be a vessel of further changing and transitioning; can I prepare my spirit to sway and step with the new cadences and rhythms?

There are many possibilities of what these High Holy Days might accomplish. These are some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Susan joins me in extending to you and yours only blessings in our New Year.

With Shalom, and L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu, Rabbi Douglas Kohn