Celebrations and feasting lift our spirits in joy and thanksgiving. We celebrate by gathering of family and friends to the feast table for eating, singing, talking, and praying. We thrive on this. The High Holy Days and the Festival of Sukkot bring these traditions into sharp focus.
However, the celebrations we have done joyfully, year after year has been changed. We have severely curtailed our Shabbat Kiddush and our holiday celebrations will follow suit, again. And why have we done this? This challenging stance at our synagogue has everything to do with the COVID-19 Delta Coronovirus epidemic. That is why we have all these restrictions in place. All of us are frustrated with the rules, regulations, limitations that we encourage everyone to follow. As a member of the Kitchen Committee, I experience a very high level of frustration since food and celebrations done in this synagogue are a major focus in our lives and hearts, and I am not alone.
However, there is one very good reason we go on with all of these rules and regulations. We put all of this in place because of the Jewish tradition Pikuach Nefesh. Pikuach Nefesh places the responsibility of preservation of human life above all of the commandments in Judaism. This responsibility rests on each and everyone of our shoulders.
All of these rules, restrictions, and requests will hopefully reduce the chance of spreading the highly contagious Delta variant. We should all be aware that we may not even know if that we are infected and spreading this virus (vaccinated or not). We know the harm this virus may do to the non-vaccinated individual (be it a child or an adult). We also know that vaccinated children or adults can have severe consequences with this if they have high risk conditions. Those of us who are (or were) in the health profession know that while we are working with odds (or probability) it is the patients that fall through those cracks that we are very concerned about, and they are in significant numbers.
The best we can do to help prevent spreading the virus hasn’t changed. All of our rules, regulations, suggestions follow these same prevention concepts. One, if you are able, please vaccinate; two, wear a good mask, correctly placed over nose and mouth; three, keep social distance from others unless you are a family or group living together (aka: ‘pod’); four, wash your hands frequently (after contact with people or objects), finally, have good air flow. You have heard or read this before.
For our celebrations, we are trying to keep things very simple to encourage minimal close groupings. We have minimized set-up and clean-up to take as little time as possible, and reduce tasks to do in the kitchen.
We celebrate Kiddush outside and encouraging social distancing, and while masking outside is appreciated it’s not strictly required. However, during the Nursery School hours, we wear masks outside and inside because the Nursery School Program is a high-risk children’s program and masking is required. We ask everyone to respect and follow these rules, regulations and suggestions we put together for the purpose of Pikuach Nefesh.
Even though we can’t have the usual celebrations for the High Holy Days this year, there are other ways of celebrating. Dipping apples in honey, sweet challah, sharing honey cake, and champagne all can be done safely in small groups in more intimate settings either inside homes , or small gatherings outside in parks. We would rather things be different; but we will still celebrate the coming of this new year in the best, safest way we can.
And this year may you and your family have a good sweet, healthy, happy, peaceful New Year.
Shanah tovah u’metukah.