By Rabbi David
What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.
– Dionne Warwick (1966)
How sweet it is to be loved by you.
– Marvin Gaye (1964)
It’s with eager anticipation that I welcome you to the High Holy Day season of 5781.
Pardon my Hebrew, but 5780 has been a #@?! of a year – shockingly turbulent, a roller coaster of dismaying despair and renewing hope. It’s been a year of courage and fear, selflessness and selfishness, resilience and exhaustion, connection and isolation, inspiration and outrage, action and stasis – and yes, too much loss much too fast.
Rosh Hashanah 5781 will find our nation and world at a crossroads as never before. We say every Rosh Hashanah is a chance to start afresh, a threshold of opportunity and uncertainty, empowerment to change and obligation to repair. This year, all the more so.
What will it take? What will it ask of us? Nothing less than all we’ve got.
This year proves that spiritual and social repair are so sacred and urgent that they demand our all. This season’s power isn’t only to rouse us. If we give this season our all – even if it’s still seems insufficient – this season’s power can make it enough anyway.
That’s a miracle we might call by many names. This year, one of those names is Love (in Hebrew, Ahavah). That’s our theme for the High Holy Days of 5781, our Season of Love.
Love is a paradox with many faces. Love is magic, and there is no magic. Love can be a catalyst, a lubricant, an intoxicant, a mirage, a fire that burns, a whisper that soothes. Love can be impassioned or sharp, forgiving or infuriating. Love can be friendly or jealous, nourishing or smothering. Love can flow effortlessly, and love can tie us in knots. Love can heal, and love can hurt. Love can be impossible, and love can make the impossible happen.
As we do each High Holy Day season, we’ll refract our theme through these many lenses to support our journey of transformation. Erev Rosh Hashanah will celebrate the love that makes rebirth and reboot possible. Rosh Hashanah 1 will rouse courage to love, and a love to fuel our resilience amidst truths otherwise maybe too difficult to hear and heal. Rosh Hashanah 2 will invoke a vulnerable love, because our teshuvah journey requires trust. Kol Nidre will channel a forgiving love wholly open to seeking and receiving teshuvah. Yom Kippur will lift us into a love so powerful it can live forever (in Hebrew, Ahavat Olam – this year’s theme song).
If some of these loves feel distant or unlikely, that’s understandable. Our journey is just beginning. We’ll get there together. It’s together that transformation is most whole and holy. So along the way, we’ll celebrate together. (Erev Rosh Hashanah will include a Passover-style seder.) We’ll laugh. We’ll learn. We’ll cry. We’ll confess. We’ll pray. We’ll play. We’ll wrestle. We’ll mourn. We’ll break. We’ll release. We’ll heal. We’ll love.
This year will be different. It’s ironically fitting: this year’s High Holy Day journey should be different, for no year has been like this one. We’ll be together in many dimensions, but not in the same physical space. That means practical changes to how we take this journey together, asking your own effort to make sacred space where you are.
We’ll also weave love into the realities of this moment – pandemic, racial (in)justice, political turmoil, climate change, economic dislocation, antisemitism, misogyny and more. We’ll amplify diverse voices that too often we don’t hear. We’ll focus on faces and societal patterns that too often we don’t see.
TBE will help you make the most of this love journey. Members can receive a High Holy Day package, with a printed machzor (which also will be on screen) and a wrist bracelet reflecting our theme:
Love ♥ Ahavat Olam ♥ Rebirth ♥ Courage ♥ Resilience ♥ Teshuvah ♥
Non-members are encouraged to become members. Everyone is encouraged to invite friends and loved ones from anywhere. Remember that everyone must RSVP separately. Everyone who RSVPs will receive the machzor digitally with instructions for what to expect, how and when. For digital security reasons, anyone who doesn’t RSVP cannot be admitted to the Zoom space.
What the world needs now is love sweet love – and the meaning, truth, healing, wholeness and holiness that love makes possible. It’s our Season of Love – our precious time to look inside, look around, look up, and sing together: “How sweet it is to be loved by You.”
From my heart to yours, I send blessings for a shanah tovah um’tukah – a sweet and good year for all our loved ones and a world that needs all the love we can give. Let’s go.