Everyone in my family, indeed my entire neighborhood, were shul goers, especially for the High Holy Days. Believe me when I tell you, virtual was not part of our vernacular; not even close.
My parents, their friends, neighbors, relatives, returned to heaven (well most of them did anyway) not ever in their wildest dreams imagining their children and grandchildren would be referring to “virtual” in the same deferential sentence as Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.
The high holidays were special on so many levels, none of them possible virtually. Feh?! Virtual is not a High Holy Day word.
The holidays were special because the advent of Rosh Hashanah reminded us that the Jewish holidays were coming, an entire fall array of them. Although this meant our summer vacation days would be coming to an end, we knew we would have a bit of a reprieve from education, given that New York Public Schools would be closed. Yes indeed, in those days we would have Jewish holidays off from school. Ah, the good ole days.
Holidays were special, too, because my mom, her sisters, mom and sister-in-law would begin chopping fish for gefilte fish – which, by the way, languished in my Mama’s (grandmother’s) bathtub for days – chopping liver for chopped liver, cutting up chickens for chicken soup, and getting flanken marinated to taste.
Our homes reeked of yom tov. A deliciousness I miss to this very day. A deliciousness I resent my children and grandchildren will not be experiencing.
Special as well, because all of our friends who were not members of “the tribe” were so jealous of all these days of holidays we had and would be out of school. The pride and the awe we kids felt, in being different, being special (or so we were told over and over again) was palatable.
But virtual? Vos iz dos? (What is this?) Not even a blip on our human radar screens.
So where did virtual come from? Why was it born?
One interpretation, one of many, many interpretations, as many interpretations as there are rabbis, is that the Temple was destroyed by Hashem, not foreign enemies. Who could blame him/her/they/them? The world had turned on itself. People had become too unkind, so cruel to each other, finding new and innovative ways to destroy their very humanity.
Well, here we are, the High Holy Days minutes away, and look around us. It would seem a repeat performance was quite evident. Consider the floods, the fires, the very air we breathe, as proxy temples. The pandemic as the destructive tool.
High Holy Days are now virtual?! I ask you dear readers, what the heck!? Where is our community? Where is our neshama? Where are our mitzvah makers?
I want to feel the prayers, I want to be able to hold the spirituality of the moment in my heart. I want my children and grandchildren to have their hearts and thoughts opened to the possibilities of our New Year. I want them to be able to sit as families, witness the rabbis shuckling in prayer. I wish with all my heart they will be able to look in the eyes of their rabbi when they say with all due reverence gut yom tov Rabbi.
These are days of awe, real awe. Virtual awe is not possible for me.