The New Hevre/Ma’ayan/teen /youth programs

Smell the freshness of sliced apples

and taste the sweetness of the honey.

Hear the call of the shofar.

See the words of the High Holy Day Machzor before you,

And feel how melodies and prayers move you into the year ahead.

This time of year is designed to engage all of our senses. It is a full body experience that begins with shared meals and continues with a deliberate fast. We feel both the fullness of anticipation and the hunger of our hopes. This month of Elul is our preparation for the days of awe. We begin with outward symbols, and move inward to acknowledge deepest desires and most sincere dreams.

For those of us with children, this sensory experience of taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight is an easy access point for Jewish learning. Our preschoolers come home from Chanen with apple stamps and songs about sweet honey. Our Hevre Religious School students hear the sound of the shofar in t’fillah. So many of our teens feel the honor of chanting Torah in the presence of their community on the holiest days of the year. Our youth has easy opportunities for engagement in the days of awe, from the inside out.

As adults, this time of year is harder. We might get stuck in accessories of the holy days: like planning meals, or arranging childcare. We may become bogged down by the logistics of managing our work schedules while also prioritizing the key moments of Jewish life. It might be lonely if our grown children are far away or uninvolved. The joyful ease of childhood can be harder to capture as we and our little ones grow into older, busier, more distracted adults.

But the High Holy Days come whether we are ready or not. They come whether we have cooked brisket or cut apples or heard the call of the shofar. They come whether we have noticed the ways we have missed the mark and whether or not we have made plans to do better. The New Year comes whether or not we have plans to acknowledge it. The community will gather whether or not we are a part of it. It is on us to fulfill the obligation of participation. It is on us to feel something.

As adults we still have the opportunity to engage every sense. To feel every emotion, taste every morsel, hear every prayer. But the difference is that no one will make the choice for us. No one will slice our apples or call our boss to arrange the time off. The work of connection to God, tradition, and community is ours alone.

With Elul approaching, consider:

What will you taste this high holy day season?

What smells will come from your kitchen?

What new melodies will you hear?

Who will you see around your table, in your row, on the bima?

And what will it feel like to know you are ready for all the new year has to offer?

If you have not yet made a plan to experience the High Holy Days, consider organizing your to-do list by senses. Let’s learn ourselves the way we teach our children: how can we be fully engaged on the holiest days of the year? By considering every sensation we can be more fulfilled, more invested, and completely ready to enter 5783 together.

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