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Rabbi’s Update 8/30/2023

Dear Friends:

Yesterday I sent out an email inviting those of you who are either Kohanim or Levi’im to participate in the ritual of blessing the congregation on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I know that some of you fall into either of these categories but have not participated and may be concerned that you do not know what to do. If that is the case, please be in touch with me and I will be happy to walk you through it. As a Kohen, I find it extremely meaningful to be the channel of God’s blessing to our people. I know that sometimes people feel that they are “not religious enough” to participate in this mitzvah but there is no such concept. If you think that you might be a Kohen or Levi but are not certain, contact me and I will help you try to figure it out.

We are also looking for people who are capable of blowing the shofar to do so on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Why only the second day?

This year the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat. This does not happen all that frequently but it did in 2020 as well. The most recent time before 2020 was 2009. When the first day of Rosh Hashanah is on Shabbat, the shofar is not blown on that day but of course it is blown on the second day, Sunday.

Why do we not blow the shofar on Shabbat? Doing so is not, per se, a violation of Shabbat but the Sages feared that someone might have forgotten to bring their shofar to the synagogue before Shabbat and carry in the public domain on Shabbat -- or they might take their shofar to an expert for instruction on how to blow it on Shabbat. So since there are two days of Rosh Hashanah, they decreed that it not be blown on the first day to eliminate the concerns of violating Shabbat by carrying the shofar in public.

I remember back in 2020 when most synagogues held services on Zoom only (as we did) there was some discussion of whether or not the shofar might be blown on the first day that year even though it was Shabbat. The rationale was actually impeccable; since everyone was praying from home, there was no fear that people might violate Shabbat by carrying their shofar to shul. But most Conservative rabbis, myself included, decided against doing so because of the Talmudic principle of lo plug, not making fine distinctions that might not be widely understood. If we had blown the shofar on Shabbat in 2020, people might have a hard time understanding why it was OK to do so three years ago but not now.

At any rate, if you are someone who usually comes to shul on the first day but not the second, consider coming on both days this year so you will not miss the shofar. And of course, if you can participate in services by blowing shofar or participating in the ritual of blessing the congregation, please do so.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. 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 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

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