We began our quarantine on March 13. Many of us thought this might only be a couple of weeks, maybe a month until we could be back in person together. No one thought it would be 5 let alone 6 months or more. The freeways were eerily quiet and our computer screens were zooming from room to room, meeting to meeting, class to class. Life began to transition.
Weeks passed and reality awakened us to understand that these High Holy Days would be like no other. Our once packed sanctuaries, where the Torah hakafah took a good fifteen minutes so we could stop and say hello, hug, kiss and wave to one another, will be empty this year. Instead we will wave, smile and even chat online as we watch our services and reach for a sacred moment.
Rabbi Richard Levy, of blessed memory, in his “Songs Ascending: The Book Of Psalms In A New Translation With Textual And Spiritual Commentary” published in 2017 was almost prophetic. Psalm 23, in Rabbi Levy’s translation says, “I shall abide in God’s house for long days, long, long days.” What does that house look like today? It is not the Temple in Jerusalem and even now, it is not our sanctuaries. Rabbi Levy challenges us with, “How would we need to renovate our homes to turn them into God’s house – a house where we would know always that we were in the presence of God?”
Whether Rabbi Levy knew that the day would come when we would not be able to be in common sanctuaries, he encouraged us to consider how it is that our homes can be and are God’s house.
How will we prepare our space at home to be a sacred space so that we can engage with and in our High Holy Day liturgy and practice. This year is not going to be like any other year, and we know that while it has been months now, the future is going to look and be different. Different is not bad, it just requires us to recognize that it will take more work on all of our parts to ensure that the High Holy Days are just that, holy. We cannot just walk into a space, sit down and expect someone else to do it for us, we are in this together, and together, we are building God’s house wherever it is we are.