With all the introspection encouraged over the High Holidays, I feel the communal aspects of these sacred days may become lost. My favorite communal aspect is the enthroning of God as sovereign of the world.
As Americans this feels a bit foreign, and our Jewish identity often is at odds with our American one. Many of us consider ourselves to be MOT – Members of the Tribe – while we also celebrate our sovereign self. It’s hard to be both a part of the group and an individual who is separate and independent.
Due to this, I feel we may not really understand why we are gathering with community on the holidays. If it’s just to pray and talk with God, most of us can do that wherever we are. In fact, we might find it more easily done in a quiet and solitary space.
However, this is where the communal aspect of the High Holiday experience speaks to us so loudly. The High Holidays are about installing God on the throne of justice and mercy. Our prayer book says it best: HaMelekh, yoshev al keysay ram v’Nisah – The Sovereign, sitting upon the high and exalted chair. God is being coronated and our job is to sing as members of the coronation choir.
Over the past few years, singing together has been difficult. As our communities gather again, this is one of many aspects that I value about being live and in person.
To hear the voices come together in a cacophony of noise is an important part of the High Holiday experience for me, and I am looking forward to raising up my voice with my spiritual family this year.
Laurence Rosenthal is a rabbi at Ahavath Achim Synagogue.