4/5 September 2020, 15/16 Elul 5780

Schools are going back. Which frankly felt a like a dream until I saw Dora walk up the path and down the road to Woodhouse College. Rafael begins next week and, of course Ruben is finished and it’ll be a year before he begins his Economics degree at Glasgow University.

But all of this does mean that we have arrived at Autumn, as the poet John Keats captured for ever;

Season of Mists and Mellow fruitfulness…

Things have not felt mellow for many of us these past six months. Indeed anxiety has been pretty high. So preparing for Rosh Hashanah this year as we pass through this month of Elul is so different. Time has been strange these past months as days and weeks merged together; and we negotiated work schedules at home and new means of marking distinctions.

But of course preparing for the New Year is also familiar, because this opportunity to gaze inwards comes annually and reminds us that we are responsible for ourselves. This past year has amplified what is beyond our control and Elul invites us consider what we can control and manage. That is, ourselves.  Kotveinu b’sefer chayim we will chant again and again this month, Write us in the Book of Life. That Book doesn’t get written on Rosh Hashanah; we write in it continually. Decisions that were made for us will be in its pages; the experiences of growing up, our parents, our siblings. Our work and our adult choices and of course the decisions we make every day how to be and how to react.

In S.Y. Agnon’s beautiful anthology, Days of Awe, we find this story: “A tale is told of one who sat in study before the zaddik Rabbi Mordecai of Nadvorna, of blessed memory, and before Rosh ha-Shanah came to obtain permission to be dismissed. That zaddik said to him, ‘Why are you hurrying?’ Said he to him, ‘I am a Reader, and I must look into the festival prayer book, and put my prayers in order.’ Said the zaddik to him, ‘The prayer book is the same as it was last year. But it would be better for you to look into your deeds, and put yourself in order.’”

And so we do.

Actually this year the prayers will be a little different, service format tweaked and adjusted for the different reality we find ourselves in.  The yamim nora’im, the ‘awed days’ are upon us and I hope they will bring you an opportunity to feel that awe and radical amazement of being alive, of having reached another year and another renewal for us, our lives and our hopes.

Shabbat Shalom for the weekend of Parashat Ki Tavo; the penultimate Shabbat of 5780.

I wish you well and look forward to seeing you in person if you manage one of our Car Park services, or on line as we have been doing.