The Rambam says that “congregational prayer is always heard [by the Almighty].” While acknowledging that it’s not always possible to be together in person (as has been the case over the past few years), the Rambam knows that there are major benefits to joining as a community in prayer.
God hears our prayers more clearly, and perhaps we hear one another’s prayers better too. We are thrilled to be able to return this High Holy Day season in larger numbers, to sing together, hold each other, and do teshuva, repentance, as a community. There will be those who are excited to reunite with friends and family during the holidays.
Others will look forward to the special melodies that the holidays offer, and to hearing the shofar as it pierces our hearts. Still others will be happy to have a place to be, a home away from home, structured time to move through the holidays, and to allow the holidays to move through us.
As we hear each other better this year, we can also see the impact of the holidays on our commitments for the year to come. Our better hearing can lead to better responding.
The Atlanta Rabbinic Association recently learned this text with Rabbi Shai Held of Hadar: “When a person receives a benefit from his fellow, a seed of hesed [loving connection] is planted in his world. If the nature of hesed is functioning healthily and properly, this seed cannot but give rise to additional hesed.”
When we are together, we have the opportunity to sow this seed – with the smile we share with a stranger, the food we share with those in need on Yom Kippur, the commitments we share to continue to bring light and justice into the world. Within the context of community, our acts of hesed have even greater ripple effects than if we do them alone – they, in turn, plant new seeds of kindness.
Inspiring each other with moving prayer, we can engage acts of hesed that blossom and grow and taken together as a community, have the power to transform our world for the better.
With wishes for a meaningful holiday season.
Rabbis Peter Berg, Rabbi Loren Lapidus, Rabbi Lydia Medwin, Rabbi Steven Rau, Cantor Tracey Scher Rabbi Emeritus Alvin Sugarman, Cantor Emerita Deborah Hartman are all clergy of The Temple.