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A Harvest from the High Holy Days

Dear Friends,

I am writing on the day after Simchat Torah – a roomful of happy people of all ages danced with the Torah scrolls and each other, lifted up by the joyous music of Berl’s Hotsie Totsie Klezmer Orkester, our “in-house” band that just keeps getting better and better. We unrolled the entire Torah scroll around the room, making a giant circle so that the end touched the beginning, and we listened to the final verses of Deuteronomy and the first verses of Genesis. The kids gave the adults blessings for the coming year and the adults did the same for the kids. Then, of course, we had refreshments!

Simchat Torah culminates the High Holy Day season, a grand finale to this annual opportunity to reconnect with our best selves and aim our hearts and minds toward the new year. And what a High Holy Day season it has been for our wonderful community – and for me personally, I’d like to add. I feel powerfully renewed by my preparations during Elul, my precious time under the tent with all of you, the pleasure and ecstasy of sitting in the Sukkah and reveling in the autumn splendor during last week’s balmy days, and finally saying goodbye to this holy time on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. It all feels of a piece to me in a fuller way than I have ever experienced before. I thank you for any and every part that you shared with me, and for all of your support for our congregation.

And what am I taking with me as I reenter “ordinary” time? A heart filled with love, an open countenance, amazement and gratitude for being alive, an urge to laugh and sing, and a readiness to speak my truth and stand for my convictions, while allowing others to do the same. I am ever clearer that I choose not to walk through this life armored and defended, but rather choose to find my inner strength, my own backbone and the deeper support of Life Unfolding, and take the risk of openness, along with its inestimable rewards. I enter the New Year ready to love – my family, my community, the orphan and the stranger, this moment and this reality – and to love myself, too. As the years go by, nothing else seems to matter nearly as much as loving this life and all that it contains.

So, come on by the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, and this year let’s especially practice love. It will make us stronger and softer at the same time, so that we can meet the world with both courage and joy.


Rabbi Jonathan