7 September 2018
Shalom Dearest Rodfei Zedek,
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah; this will be the first of many times I get the pleasure of wishing you a good new year. The High Holidays are a time of excitement and joy, reflection and stress, at least for those who work at or for a synagogue. And it is in that stress that I realized I needed to pause, put the highlighters and editing tools down, and offer a little of the gratitude I am feeling. I say thank you a lot and it comes from knowing how privileged I am to be the rabbi at Congregation Rodfei Zedek and how lucky we are to be in a community like this one. I am certainly not the only one who goes home feeling rejuvenated not only by the spiritual aspects of these days but by the community itself. And we are poised to have our best year yet.
I am thrilled that this year, for the first time, we have the true privilege to say that we are whole; Cantor Rachel Rosenberg will be with us for the entirety of the Holidays. Each High Holidays have been wonderful for me, yet I am left with a nagging feeling that the holidays and overall environment is lacking something significant. I have been longing for a Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that matches what many of us experience regularly on Shabbat, namely, being brought into a world of joy and meaning through Rachel's passion for her craft and her community. This year, on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah (at 10 a.m.), Rachel will lead (with special guests including our own Ben Waltzer, Joe Philipson, and Yael Hoffman) a Na'aseh V'Nishma instrumental service upstairs in the chapel. Na'aseh V'Nishma is a Shabbat service created and led by Rachel, and her talented husband Chuck, which has been a highlight for many of us. Now Rachel has created the Rosh Hashanah version of Na'aseh V'Nishma, a service for adults and children; and I hope you will check it out, because it will be wonderful and offer a glimpse into what I know we have been missing.
We, of course, are lucky to have the choir and Jonathan Miller as our High Holiday Cantor. The choir and Jonathan bring us, each year, to new spiritual heights and the privilege of standing on the bima with them is never dulled nor taken for granted. Also, we are tremendously fortunate to have Sarah Abella and Yael Hoffman leading Minyan Katan on both days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur morning (10 a.m., generally for children six and under). Sarah and Yael bring their talent, warmth and passion for Judaism and, the community that they have helped to create, to our children and their families, and anyone else, on these sacred days. And this year, we are privileged to have Rabbi Rebecca Milder bring her expertise to create a new Neilah service on Yom Kippur that challenges children and adults alike to engage with the tradition and themselves in ways only Rebecca can. Also, during the Musaf service on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur Dan Libenson will continue to lead spirited, thoughtful and challenging discussions and text-study on the themes of the Holidays. Dan is not only a gifted teacher but a mensch and we are lucky he is in our community.
Thank you to all of our thoughtful community leaders; we would not be the same as a community, nor as Jews, without your willingness to share your time and passion with all of us. Thank you to all the members of the community who will also lead services, read Torah, share readings and honors, those who organize and pass out those honors, those who greet people at the doorway or in the atrium and to our fabulous ushers. And to many other people who work tirelessly to make the High Holidays at Rodfei meaningful and enduringly memorable. Lastly, thank you to Sherry Gutman, Ana Gilboa, and Alejandro and Gerado Martinez for the many hours of dedication and care you give to this community. It can be a thankless and an exhausting process, but the holidays and this community, would not be what it is without your care.
It is such a joy to be the rabbi here and I am excited to pray, schmooze and learn with all of you in this upcoming New Year. May it be a year of health, happiness and blessing for all of us.
Rabbi David Minkus