No time puts the spotlight on synagogue attendance like the High Holy Days. Famously, these days see many more people coming to be with community than other occasions throughout the year.
We know that Judaism is not a numbers game, and the power of faith must first and foremost be individual. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, Jewish traditions also point to the value of coming together to worship with significant numbers on these days.
The number we may be most familiar with is one that is relevant on any day, regular weekday, or The Day of Atonement: a minyan of ten. In order to say all of the prayers including the call to prayer and Kaddish, there must be ten Jewish people (of any gender) old enough to count and be counted on for b’nei mitzvah.
On the Days of Awe, however, another principle comes into play: “the Sovereign’s Glory is found in the magnitude of the assembly.”
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when so much of the focus is on recognizing G*d as Sovereign, the power of gathering together becomes that much more pronounced. When it comes down to it, the most important elements of prayer are found in each one of us: our own heart, our own soul, our own self.
No assembly is needed, let alone a large crowd. Being with each other, though, drawing the energy and the intention of each other as we gather to mark a New Year, helps renew our appreciation and connection to each other, ourselves and the One Who Spoke the World into Being.
Michael Bernstein is the rabbi of Congregation Gesher L’Torah.