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Making history on Rosh Hashanah

בתמונה: שולחן חג ליחיד. צילום: רן בר יהושפט

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

This Rosh Hashanah will go down in Jewish history like none other. Not only because of the lockdown, but because of our ability to deal with it. Virtually everyone had to adapt, to change, to be flexible.

Families restrained themselves and sat down to eat alone without relatives or friends in order not to take any risks. Many grandpas and grandmas who wanted to eat an apple dipped in honey with their grandchildren could only pine for them.

Many got up to pray at five in the morning in order not to be scorched by the sun. I saw so many people (including children) in the streets of Jerusalem at this early hour.

Hundreds of thousands stood for long hours in parks, playgrounds, parking lots, and on balconies. They heard the "Unetaneh Tokef" prayer chanted between the carousel and the seesaw, the "Achot Ketana" (little sister) prayer sung next to parked cars.

Tens of thousands in isolation opened the new year stuck in their apartments. I heard about visitors who came to blow shofars under the windows of these shut-ins, but when they tried to blow they broke down in tears and did not manage to say the blessings before blowing.

The police and medical teams worked especially hard this year. I was told about a corona nurse who managed to take a five minute break to hear the shofar, and then went back inside to continue fighting for the lives of her patients.

And the gabbaim (synagogue managers) showed their devotion in finding seats, fans, and water for those who came to pray while remarking politely about masks and social distancing. Many volunteers joined them in suddenly becoming prayer leaders and shofar blowers for the first time in their lives. And people suddenly cooked for neighbors who were stuck in isolation. Because of the corona, people changed from those who were watching a game into those who were playing it.

And to conclude, a word about those neighbors who did not go to the synagogue. They showed respect towards their religious neighbors who set up a prayer service at the entrance to their building. We are used to hearing solely about the tensions between the religious and the secular, but here was proof that the Israeli public knows how to get along in public quite well. And then suddenly the sounds of the shofar were heard. Many stopped in the middle of walking their dogs or their morning run to listen.

It is said that in the new year we need to renew ourselves, to move, not to stay the same. It seems to me that is exactly what we did on Rosh Hashanah 5781.

Have a good year.


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