Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Once the question “Where are you for the holidays?” meant: where will you be staying, where will you be going? But whoever has been listening to the latest corona updates understands that this year the question has a different meaning: are you praying on Rosh Hashana in the playground next to your house? on your balcony with a neighborhood minyan? in a public park?
Elul in 5780 and Tishrei in 5781 are expected to be especially challenging. A million people typically visit the Kotel to say slichot (special Elul prayers) but most of them will not be coming this year. In order to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashana, we will have to make an extra effort since we will not be able simply to attach ourselves to a minyan of hundreds of people. And during “Kol Nidrei” and “Ne’ilah” on Yom Kippur we will not be crowded together in the neighborhood synagogue.
The responsibility this year is given over to us.
Millions of Israelis will be celebrating the holidays and now is the time to make our plans. It would be a shame to wait until the last minute when preparations can be made in advance, in strict accordance with the safety guidelines. There are communities that have already rented a canopy or an open tent. There are cities that have mapped out public parks and thought about how to divide them among the populace, keeping in mind those who do not visit the synagogue during the year, but wish to take part in the holiday prayers.
Our responsibility is not only in the physical realm, but in the spiritual content we absorb. Just like we experienced at the Pesach Seder. For the coming holidays, we will find ourselves without the usual ambience of a giant congregation or a large family circle. Instead, we will gather with our immediate family and focus on the essence of the holidays and their everlasting truths. Because, after all, the corona is temporary but the holidays of Tishrei are eternal.
So where are you for the holidays?