Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
“After the holidays” has finally arrived. “After the corona” has not. This was a crazy Tishrei –challenging, depressing, amazing.
Tishrei began with small scale slichot prayers, continued with Rosh Hashanah shofar blowing from apartment balconies and in public parks, progressed through Yom Kippur services held early in the morning so that fasting outdoor worshippers could escape the heat, and culminated in a Sukkot holiday held without guests or celebrations. Hoshana Rabbah, the last night of Sukkot, was marked by remote Torah learning that broke all records for the number of participants.
And Simchat Torah, when people are the most packed together? Families in isolation did hakafot in their living rooms, while children who peeked into synagogues could not understand why there was no candy, no “action,” and why prayer services had so few worshippers – who were dancing where they stood and not with each other. And as the holiday ended with the second set of hakafot, hundreds of trucks were dispatched to cities, towns, and villages throughout the country with a singer and a keyboardist or simply a sound system. When people heard the music they went out to their balconies to dance accompanied by children in pajamas, while old folks in wheelchairs waved with glee.
The only ones who danced at the empty Kotel plaza were residents of the Old City’s Jewish quarter. The head of the Ramat Gan Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, danced alone yesterday in a study hall that in a typical year fills with hundreds of dancers. Instead, thousands watched the rabbi from home and danced along with him.
And what now? In Hasidic books it is written that there are certain medicines which are taken only once a year, with a strong dose, that are sufficient for the entire year. Such is the month of Tishrei. We received a powerful dose of faith, strength, joy, hope, responsibility, creativity, prayer, family, solidarity. May it all remain with us throughout the year.