Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,
On Monday morning at 10am I will lead a service at CBI which will be the formal close, the “seal,” on our holiday season. Monday is the festival known as Shemini Atzeret. Shemini means “Eighth” — this holiday is the eighth day, coming right on the heels of the seventh day of Sukkot. But what is an atzeret?
The word atzeret means something like “holy pause.” There’s one other day in our tradition described with this word: Shavuot, which comes as the 50th day after 49 days of Counting the Omer. Shavuot is an atzeret, a day of holy pausing, the culmination of seven weeks of spiritual work. And Monday — Shemini Atzeret — is also a day of pausing, the culmination of the seven weeks of spiritual work we’ve done since Rosh Chodesh Elul, the beginning of the lunar month leading up to the Days of Awe.
Monday’s service will feature some morning prayers of gratitude and awareness, a guided meditation which will give us the opportunity to remember the last seven weeks of intensive holiday time, and the prayers of Yizkor, the memorial service which we recite four times a year. (I wrote more about that a few years ago.) We’ll also dip into a special prayer for rain, because Shemini Atzeret is the time when we transition from praying for dew to praying for rain.
Our service will be intentionally spacious and uncluttered — in recognition of this special day which is like the silence following the song, the white space on the page which follows all of our holiday season’s many, many words.
Hope to see you at CBI on Friday night at 5:30 for our Sukkot / Shabbat potluck (please RSVP), on Saturday morning at 9:30 for Shabbat services, and on Monday morning at 10am for Shemini Atzeret.
Blessings to all,