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High Holy Days message from Robert Wiltshire, Chair of The Movement for Reform Judaism

There is a well-known Rabbi who says that the first time you do something it is an innovation, the second time it becomes normal and the third time you do it, it is a tradition.

Let us hope therefore that the act of praying alone, praying on zoom, or in a drive-in and wearing masks, never becomes a tradition. The various ways we celebrated the high holidays last year were a tribute to the innovative ideas of our clergy and our communities and this year may we return in part to our old traditions: Greeting each other in person, laughing together, praying together, singing together, albeit quietly according to the new rules, and talking together about our year just gone and our hopes for the year to come. 

We are a religion of community which prays together and rejoices together and sadly too often over the last year mourns together. But with the use of technology, we have adapted to this remote world that few of us even knew existed 18 months ago. Yet we must hope that we can tentatively look forward to returning to the comfort and joy that being together in person brings to us. 

As we approach the High holidays we not only hope for that physical return but also a return, teshuva in a spiritual sense. This is a time when we can reflect, on the past and look forward to the future – it is an important part of our tradition to do so. This new year in particular I hope we can continue to work to help the healing process from this Covid era and heal our souls, our bodies, and heal the planet as well. 

We are blessed with an ability to make choices and hopefully find ways to improve how we behave with each other and how we go about our daily lives. We have a choice to forgive and to be forgiven. 

Reform Judaism adapts to changing circumstances in order to maintain our tradition, not to dilute it. We modify to keep those traditions alive and now let us hope and pray that the restrictions will continue to ease and our shuls can once again be filled with the sounds of prayer, rejoicing, and togetherness. 

In ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Tevya says: “We cover our heads and wear a prayer shawl in order to show our devotion to God. And you may ask how did this start? Well, I’ll tell you – I don’t know – but it’s a tradition!” 

Let us hope that no one in the future says: “We wear a mask outside our homes, always keep two steps apart, and our phones ping once a week – and you may ask how did this start? Well, I’ll tell you ……….” 

On behalf of all of the Board of Trustees and the Team at MRJ we wish you a communal, joyful 5782.

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