A High Holiday message about making services work for you

Welcome to High Holiday services at CBI!

Over the course of the Days of Awe, we gather frequently to pray. We’ll experience some of the elements of daily/weekly prayer: psalms of praise and thanks, the Shema and its blessings, the chance to stand before God during the standing prayer called the Amidah. At our morning services we’ll read from Torah, as we do every Shabbat.

We’ll also experience some things which aren’t part of regular prayer at CBI: a reading from the prophets (called the Haftarah—this is done weekly at many synagogues, though not at ours), a sermon (which only happens here during the Days of Awe; the rest of the year, remarks take the short and informal form of a d’var Torah), and a variety of special prayers written for use during the Days of Awe.

I hope these services will resonate with you. I hope that the prayers, in their music and in their language, will open something in your heart and in your spirit, and will help you feel connected with God, with our community, and with our tradition at this holy time of year. But I know that prayer services don’t speak to everyone. And these are the longest and most challenging services of the year. If our services aren’t speaking to you, you might:

* leaf through the machzor (high holiday prayerbook) in search of pages which resonate with you or interest you—Torah readings, poems, meditations;
* move to the back of our sanctuary and pull a book off of the shelves which surround the sanctuary—you might pull exactly the book you didn’t know you needed;
* sit in silent meditation and let the service wash over you, taking care to be attentive to your breath and to what arises in you as you listen to the prayers;
* slip outside and connect with God through walking near the wetlands, or sitting in our gazebo; you might try the practice attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, who used to walk in the fields or in the woods, speaking quietly with God;
*find your way to the back of our sanctuary, claim some space for yourself, and do some gentle yoga or stretching, praying with your body;
* visit our classroom, where there is childcare during many of our services, and connect with divinity through spending quality time with the next generation.

Cantorial Soloist David Curiel and I will do our best to keep our services engaging, but if what we’re doing isn’t speaking to you, we hope you’ll forgive us—and will do whatever you need to do in order to connect with the Days of Awe, with our traditions, and with God. (Though please don’t text or engage with social media in our sanctuary while others are in prayer.)

Wishing you every blessing as we move through this holy season!
“Reb Rachel” (Rabbi Rachel Barenblat)

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