As we begin 5781, we know one thing is for certain, this new year will be different than any other years before it. We are fully engaged in digital programming, virtual schooling, and creative outside programs that allow us to be as close as we can be to being physically together. This is a time of year of reflection and when many Jews that do not consider themselves religious, will attend a prayer service or do something meaningful to them to honor the holiday. So, how does that impact the High Holidays and our connection to this year?
Now, as someone in their 30’s, I will admit that attending a service online is not anything new to me. Even well before COVID, over the last few years, I would attend virtual services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Sometimes it was a little more convenient, and sometimes I wasn’t able to be home with my family and I wanted to view the same services they were watching. And still, this year was so much different as I sat in my living room streaming services on my television through Facebook.
The big difference, everyone else was doing the same thing. No one was actually in a synagogue attending the service in person. In the past, you would still be able to hear the voices of those singing or praying along with the Rabbi and Cantor; you would sometimes see the top of people’s heads as they stood to pray; people would be called up to the Torah for an aliyah; you could just feel the presence of many even though you were not physically present yourself. However, none of that was true during this past weekend as I sat in my living room attending services virtually but not necessarily feeling that same connection as I have in the past. Just knowing that these beautiful sanctuaries were empty, made streaming a service I have streamed before, more challenging than ever before.
While I am grateful that we live in a world that offers us the ability to still participate virtually, the connection I typically feel was not as present this year. I am however hopeful and already look forward to 5782, a year that we can again be together, in person, filling our temples and synagogues, celebrating with one another.