This will be a different Rosh Hashanah for the Jewish people. In the past, there have been years when some of our people were able to celebrate this holiday only under difficult and trying conditions. During world wars, or in places where catastrophes struck, Jews had to raise their prayers in the midst of suffering. But this year, all of the Jewish people worldwide, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, will not be able to gather completely as a community, as our traditions and the sense of celebration require. COVID-19 unites us in pain and despair.
The pandemic that currently affects the whole of humanity demands physical distance from each other. This requires us to try to draw closer to each other only in mind and heart, from a distance.
Rosh Hashanah is the time for examining our very being (Cheshbon HaNefesh), a large part of which involves our relationships with others. The obligatory distance between us compels us to an introspective review of our relationships that could lead to changes in our behavior. The fact that the painful need for social distancing due to the pandemic prompts us to undertake such an internal spiritual process shows that even the most negative situations can sometimes produce positive effects.
Our tefilot we will not fully come to communal life this year. We will find ourselves separated, forced to spend more time with ourselves. By looking at ourselves more closely we can get a sense of the picture God has of us when judging us during this season.
The prayers we recite are phrased in the plural. The individual joins his or her particular being with all of those who comprise the Jewish community. This time it will be different, without being able to meet in our synagogues we will have to create new ways of relating in order to feel our prayers in the plural. The ´we´ will be found more in the mind than in physical reality.
The challenge is great. We must let go of nostalgia and overcome the grief of not being able to access all the beauty that we had year after year on Rosh Hashanah. We cannot remain paralyzed or helpless in the face of that pain. The radiance of the Yamim Noraim illuminates our very being and cannot be turned off or diminished to a tiny twinkling light. With our conscious effort, that spiritual brilliance will brighten even the aberrant ways we will celebrate this year and our joy at the beginning of a new year will return to our homes and fill our beings.
May the New Year be a time of peace, health, harmony and deep spirituality,
Ketivah vaChatimah Tovah,