While I always encourage people who are able to do so, to attend our Shabbat and holiday services in person, there are individuals for whom this is impossible for various reasons. Therefore I want to provide a couple of links which will be helpful for those participating in services tomorrow morning and evening over Zoom.
Shemini Atzeret is a somewhat odd holiday in that it is not clear precisely what it celebrates. “Shemini Atzeret” means “Eighth Day Assembly” and in some ways it is the eighth day of Sukkot but in some ways not. We do not take lulav and etrog, the holiday has its own liturgical inserts that are different from those for Sukkot, and we use the Sukkah only if the weather is pleasant, and if we are in the Sukkah we do not say the blessing for “dwelling” in the Sukkah. “Simchat Torah” is not mentioned in the Torah or the rest of the Bible at all and it is in essence the “second day of day eight”. We are not allowed to enter the Sukkah even if we want to but the liturgical inserts are the same as the previous day.
Tomorrow night at 7 pm we will have an in-person and Zoom service for Simchat Torah. We will be in the Anita Levine Chapel so that we do not displace our church tenants who are in the Sanctuary on Saturday nights. I want to thank Hazzan Komrad for her willingness to be with us in person that evening despite the significant inconvenience to her and Dr. Mark Komrad in doing so, and I hope that you will join us for our first in person Simchat Torah celebration since 2019. On the morning of Yom Kippur, one of the points I made in my sermon was that post-WWII American Judaism has been largely child focused and as the demographics of our congregation and community change, we have to refocus and not assume that synagogues will be kept alive by a pipeline of families looking for Hebrew school and Bar/Bat Mitzvah. This is by way of saying that Simchat Torah is not just for kids or for families with kids at home, and Hazzan Komrad and I look forward to celebrating with you on Saturday night.
Sunday morning services will be on Zoom only as we have tenants in a number of different spaces in our building. I have prepared a talk with sources on the origins and customs of Simchat Torah and the sources, many of which I had not seen before doing this research, are fascinating. I hope you’ll join me Sunday morning on Zoom and that you’ll find the talk interesting.
I will be taking a few days to recoup after the holidays and will be off Oct. 15 - 18. The week after I will resume my Thursday night Adult Education classes after minyan. On the second and fourth Thursdays I will once again be doing my series on “Contemporary Jewish Controversies.” For the first and third Thursdays I am leaning towards doing a series of three to five session mini-courses so I can cover a variety of subjects of interest to our members. If there is something you would like me to cover and you think it can lend itself to a mini-course of this type, please let me know.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul -- after a hiatus of two weeks for High Holiday prep. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian