Image: A shofar, the ram’s horn blown on Rosh HaShanah. (Wikimedia)
Rosh Hashanah this year (2019) begins at sundown on September 29. That may sound like a long way off, but it’s closer than you think.
What are your plans for the High Holy Days (HHDs) this year? Are you planning on going to synagogue for services? Planning to make it a quiet time for reflection? Planning to ignore them entirely?
If the third possibility is your plan, I invite you to reconsider. The High Holy Days can be fulfilling and renewing, but only if you decide what you want out of them and then invest yourself in them.
If you are planning on going to services: If you are a member of a synagogue, that one is simple – go to shul. If you aren’t a member, then it’s trickier, and you definitely need to start thinking now. In most metropolitan areas, there are two options: free services and services requiring tickets. Call around, find out what’s available. More and more Jewish groups are offering free HHDs services, but not all congregations can afford to do so. If tickets make you angry, don’t go to those places.
Another option: streaming services!: Many synagogues now stream their services, including High Holy Day services. This too may involve some sleuthing: check out the websites of synagogues in your time zone, or maybe that of your childhood synagogue. (Pro tip: If you like the experience and want them to continue doing it, consider sending them a donation with a letter thanking them for the streamed service.)
If you are planning on a do-it-yourself HHDs experience: Decide what you want to accomplish. Then look for the resources you need. There are some wonderful books about the HHDs. I have a list of them in the post titled Books to Help Us Prepare for the High Holy Days. Some are books designed for preparation, and some are machzorim (HHDs prayer books.) Sometimes a quiet place to sit and something good to read is exactly what we need.
If you are not sure what you want, learn about the High Holy Days themselves. You can start with the article High Holy Days for Beginners, 5780/2019 edition. They can be a hugely fulfilling process of taking stock and putting one’s house in order. They can be an opportunity to connect with other Jews who are seeking community and wholeness/holiness. If past experiences of the HHDs were more about new clothes or stuffy synagogues, the one who can change that is you. Learn, then put your learning to use in making the experience you want.
Whatever you do, remember that the High Holy Days are coming. Anticipation is part of the process!
I wish you a good year, a year of sweetness and fulfillment, in the coming year of 5780!