By Rabbi Scott Fox
I, for one, welcome it. It seems more of a surprise than anything else. I’ve been so focused on how to make the most of my time while at home, balancing work and family in the same space, that I almost forgot about it. Just the other day I was in a meeting and in the middle of a sentence, little Adi came waddling into the room. Not only is new for me to have a toddler around at all, but I’m not used to including anyone under the age of five in a staff meeting. We stopped the conversation and Adi giggled at the screen while the staff of Temple Israel played for a minute between discussing programming and pastoral needs.
I know that we are all in a place of upside down. In a space where the expected can’t be counted on and where we are relearning even the basic elements of our daily routine as many of our commutes shrank from a comfortable drive to a very short walk. Our workspaces are now divided up among living and bedrooms and missing that fresh sheen that comes when you step back into the office after 15 hours away.
So I welcome this surprise. I am glad that while everything else is completely different, that Rosh HaShanah is still on the same day it always was. Given the virus I half expected the calendar to go into quarantine as well, call in from a virtual office somewhere in the course of time and share that due to the pandemic the holiday was either postponed or completely off. Instead, there it was in the same box on my calendar. Waiting patiently as we slowly drove along the weeks to its address. This year, Rosh HaShanah has a smile, a plate of cookies, and a glass of milk. Even if everything else is different this year, we can count on the holiday. Same day, same time.
I think there is a reason that holidays live on a calendar that we can’t affect. There’s no slowing down the sun, there’s no changing the days even though there are times when I feel like a holiday comes at a time that’s not quite convenient. Some people say the holidays come early, or late, depending on where land in the Gregorian calendar, but the truth is that on the Hebrew calendar they are always the same. Written in stone, or fire, or parchment right there in the Five Books of Moses, and so we oblige. I love that we can’t change the date. That it comes even as life moves on around it, in spite or despite it. We would likely not celebrate our holidays if we could postpone them to a convenient or even expected time. They always come when we have something to do that day. I’d like to suggest that that is why they exist. They are a holiday, like a vacation to another planet of hours. They move us to do differently.
This year we have so much that is up in the air, so much that has changed and that is changing every day. There’s not much that we can rely on to be the same, and the holidays will certainly look different this year, but the day is still there for us. Our holy days are an anchor in a storm, a constant in the middle of uncertainty. It will be inconvenient, a difficult thing to stop and be with the holiday when the kids are running around, the sink is dripping and the floor needs to be swept, but I invite us to take a little bit of this unexpected normal and be with one another. I invite us to snap back to our holiday-self, hear some old melodies, and remind ourselves of the new year. This fall let’s offer ourselves a taste of normal, may it be like honey.
L’shanah tovah, wishing all of us a safe and sweet New Year.