Some quick reminders:
* This Saturday morning our Shabbat morning service will be Zoom-only. This had already been scheduled before the recent rise in COVID cases due to the Omicron variant. This service will be led by Hazzan Komrad and me. Decisions about subsequent Shabbat morning services will be made on a week-by-week basis depending on case trends in our area. Our goal is to return to hybrid (in-person and Zoom) services as soon as possible but we also need to take reasonable precautions to safeguard the health and safety of our kehila.
* Because the synagogue office is closed on Friday, this will be my final “Rabbi’s Update” for the 2021 calendar year.
Some thoughts on the significance of New Year’s Day:
Israelis have an ambivalent relationship with New Year’s. January 1 is a regular work day in Israel (unless, as it does this year, it happens to fall on Shabbat) and perhaps as a result, most Israelis don’t attend New Year’s parties. The holiday is known as “Sylvester” because in a number of European countries it’s known as “St. Sylvester’s Day” after the Pope who reigned from 314 to 335 and who died on December 31. Ironically, St. Sylvester convinced Emperor Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem. While most Americans consider New Year’s Day to be completely secular, besides December 31 being St. Sylvester’s Day, January 1 in the Catholic liturgical calendar is known as the Feast of the Circumcision because if Jesus was actually born on December 25, his bris would have been on January 1.
New Year’s Eve this year is on Shabbat and in addition some pandemic restrictions are in effect. But even under normal circumstances there aren’t a lot of big New Year’s celebrations in Israel because almost all hotels and many restaurants (especially in Jerusalem) are kosher and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate every year reminds kosher-certified establishments that their kashrut certificate will be revoked if they have New Year’s parties or Christmas trees or anything of the sort.
Nevertheless for most Israelis if you ask them the date they will give you the secular rather than the Hebrew date. Technically both calendars are legally in use and if you wanted to, if you wrote a check today you could date it 25 Tevet 5782 rather than December 29, 2021, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. In fact, there was a scene in the Israeli tv series Shtisel on Netflix where an ultra-Orthodox character in his 60s asks his mother who is in her 80s for the date and she gives him the Hebrew date and he’s taken aback.
I have to say that for me, the rhythms of my life generally go according to the Jewish calendar although I sometimes have to look at my Google calendar online or on my phone to tell you what the Hebrew date is. January 1 is most significant to me as the date that my insurance deductible rolls over and I always make sure to refill any eligible prescriptions before December 31. At any rate, I wish all of us only good things in 2022. For many of us 2021 was a year of loss and pain and I hope and pray that 2022 will be better.
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. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian