Let these words of our prayers ascend
As we stand embodied, virtual, in our homes, on this screen, alone, together.
Knowing You are God, not knowing what that means…
We proclaim the sacred power of this day,
The sacred power of the shofar’s blast,
The power of the internet connecting us
While the power of an infinitesimally small virus reshapes the meaning of what human power can and cannot do…
It is awesome and full of dread.
Our prayers proclaim: You are Judge. You inscribe and seal.
This year we say: We are judged by our own choices, fates sealed by our actions.
Will we remember all that we have forgotten?
Will we remember civility and respect, conversation and kindness?
Will we remember the dignity of personal responsibility, the privileges and obligations of belonging to a community?
Can we awaken in time to our own soul truth: that every moment bears the promise, the opportunity of t ‘shuvah, of choice, of change, of return?
What will fill our Book of Memories in this year to come, when so much is still possible?
A Great Shofar will cry–t’kiah!
A still small voice will be heard.
But will we hear it? Will angels tremble? Will we, with our better angels, tremble? Will we awaken to wisdom and compassion? Or will we remain like slumbering sheep?
On Rosh HaShanah it is written; on the Fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed:
How many will pass away from this world; how many will be born into it.
How many of us will rise with compassion; how many of us will drift into numbness.
How many will be stricken with a novel virus; how many will be thrust into novel life paths.
Who will reach across barriers with love, and who will have barriers hurled upon them?
Who will recognize the ways life has given them advantages, and who will help others gain advantage?
Who will fall in love, and who will stumble in hate?
Who will find new perspectives, and who will see the world through a prism of banality?
Which book will you write yourself into this new year?
We have this as our guide: Tzedakah is the route of connection to others. T’filah is the route of connection to Source. And Tshuvah, is connection to the root of the soul. These are the ways we choose life. These are the ways we choose love. These are the ways we choose You.
Rabbi Annie Belford has served Houston’s Temple Sinai since 2009 as Houston’s first full-time female solo pulpit rabbi. She is the mother of three amazing souls, loves visiting our National Parks, and is a proud member of the CCAR Committee for Worship and Practice.
Rabbi Debra Kassoff has made her rabbinic career primarily in Mississippi, first at the Institute of Southern Jewish Life and since 2010 with Hebrew Union Congregation, which she originally served as student rabbi, in a previous century. She is also the new Director of Member Engagement for Mississippi Public Broadcasting Foundation. She lives in Jackson with her family.
 Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, Orot HaTeshuvah