Here we are, in one of my most favorite months of the year, October. It is a personal favorite for a number of reasons, the weather attempts to get cooler, the leaves here in Birmingham are turning into beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow, football season is escalating, our wardrobes change to shades of crimson, orange, (or black and gold for the Saints in my case), and pumpkin spice is in everything – and I mean everything. Another reason October is a wonderful time of year is the experience felt from the High Holy Days. During these “Days of Awe” we take the time to pause and turn inward. We remove the sense of self and ask those we may have harmed to please forgive us for any wrongs. We celebrate our Torah and life itself! What a great time of year. However, as time moves on from these holiday’s, we get back into the groove of life and the reflection and awe dwindles until it moves back into storage for next year. My question is, what can we do to keep the High Holy Day experience a bit more active throughout the year? Naturally, we reserve the full effect for Tishrei, but what can we do to elongate that mindfulness and respect for others?
This year, I have been given the gift of being your Director of Congregational Engagement. This new role has allowed me to have meaningful conversations with many of you. In these conversations, I have found that our congregation has a love for our Temple that can withstand many challenges (and has). You are excited about the possibility of a new Rabbi. You are truly grateful that our beloved Cantor has so graciously become our spiritual leader for this year as our Rabbi Search Committee works so diligently to find the perfect candidate to work alongside her. You want more adult education, more ways to engage with other congregants, and more ways to communicate with our Temple staff and leadership. I am barely grazing the surface with these statements, but the bottom line is the best part of my role is listening to your enthusiasm and reflection on your vision for our Temple past, present, and future.
Now, how does my experience speaking with our congregation work with continuing our High Holy Day experience? You see, having a conversation with someone, no matter who they are, is a way to set aside my sense of self and reserve that moment to hear and understand who someone is. When I get out of my head and listen, no matter what my personal view may be, I tend to learn and grow. This what engagement is all about. To engage with someone is to be present in the experience. Say, “hello” to a stranger this year. Welcome that person who always sits alone at Shabbat. Say, “thank you”. Embrace the moment, even when it is not quite what you anticipated. Ask someone a question past “how are you” and learn something new about them. Be present. How will you keep your “awe out of storage” in 5779?
Monika F Singletary