Mordechai Kaplan, who was a professor at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary for over 50 years and also the founder of the Reconstructionist movement, was the first significant thinker to articulate the fact that observant American Jews live simultaneously in two cultures. There is perhaps no greater example of this than the period from Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah. Most Americans know about the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur but in fact between September 6 and September 29, ten out of the 23 days are or were days when observant Jews cannot work. It is a long slag made all the more so by the expectation that the regular day in and day out work continues to get done.
The holiday period comes to an end with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Although often thought of as the last days of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret (“The Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly”) is actually a separate holiday. Simchat Torah is simply the second day of Shemini Atzeret, due to the fact that in the Diaspora biblical holidays are observed for an additional day. This creates the irony that in the kiddush and ya’aleh v’yavo for Simchat Torah we are actually thanking God for the second day of Day Eight.
Evening services both days are at 7:45 and on Zoom only.
Tomorrow morning, services for Shemini Atzeret which include Yizkor will be hybrid, meaning both in person and on Zoom. If you would like to attend in person and have still not signed up, please do so at https://forms.gle/mZqCgaphagT8B5o87.
If you are attending on Zoom, the Yizkor service booklet is the same one we used on Yom Kippur. If you already have a paper copy or have downloaded it, you have what you need. If not, you can download it from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YtRCpM7SEfpLqUok8xNQB-JFLwRbbjn3/view?usp=sharing
Simchat Torah morning services will be on Zoom only. In lieu of the hakafot (dancing with the Torah scrolls), a number of congregants will briefly discuss their favorite verse in the Torah.
On a very different note, I want to thank the many congregants who reached out to me on Friday or yesterday after my Rabbi’s Update where I mentioned how our car was stripped of parts by a thief or thieves while parked on our driveway. It was really not my attention to seek your sympathy so much as to share a life event and its relevance to the holiday we were observing, but it was very touching to hear from so many of you. I’m happy to report that we received our car back on Friday afternoon before Shabbat and it looks brand new.
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