A Different Sort of Holy Days

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What’s Rosh Hashana going to look like this year? I ponder for the umpteenth time, as I make my phone calls.


“Hello? This is Eve Levy calling from Congregation Ahavath Achim. How are you?
So nice to hear your voice too!
How are you and your family doing?
Yes, I know, strange times indeed…
I’m actually calling and taking a survey, trying to feel out what our congregants would like to see for the upcoming High Holidays.
If we were to hold some in-person services, would you even consider coming?”


Long pause.
Heavy sigh.
Keep going, Eve. Plow ahead. Give them more information.

I have to remind myself that this is Rosh Hashana we are talking about, and not a Purim circus. It all feels so strange.


“We are looking into various options, with safety being our #1 priority. We are considering having our services outdoors in a huge tent. We will have a few time options to keep the numbers in each group small.
Yes, lots of fresh air from all sides of the open tent.
Yes, of course, we will be adhering to strict social distancing at all times.
Yes, masks will be required, and even provided at the door in case someone forgets…”

The conversation goes on and on.
It will be a shortened service—2 hours max.
No one will be called up to the Torah.
No auction fundraiser this year.
No big, lavish kiddush lunch following services.

We discuss the myriad of posed security issues about holding these services outdoors. We discuss taking all participants’ temperatures upon entering the tent with a special non-muktzah, halachicly-acceptable, thermometer. We discuss the sanitization of prayer books, and cleaning crews coming in and out between services.

There are so many details that my head is spinning.
I have to remind myself that this is Rosh Hashana we are talking about, and not a Purim circus. It all feels so strange.

We are so close, and yet, we have no clue what the holidays will actually look like. Try as we might, we really have no idea. I sense people’s frustration. When will this be over already?
But If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we are not in charge.
Did we ever actually think we were?!
Well the joke is on us—turns out that we are not.

The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what transpires over the next few hours of my phone calls, no matter how big or small the tent will be or if we will even go ahead with it all together, no matter how much the weather will (or will not) hold up for us, no matter how long it will take us to set up the synagogue outdoors and measure out 6 feet between all seats, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, Rosh Hashana will arrive, and we will all show up in our own way. We will crown G-d as our King. It will look different—that’s the only thing that is certain—but no matter what it looks like, it will be beautiful.

I have never seen my husband so passionate about anything. He is fired up and ready to put all his energy into the upcoming holidays to make them meaningful for our congregants—however they will look.

But If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we are not in charge.

Did we ever actually think we were?!

Well the joke is on us—turns out that we are not.


I have never heard or felt such a thirst for community and services from each of our members. The yearning in their voices is palpable. It’s strong and loud coming across the phone waves. I hear it. I feel it. It’s actually quite inspiring.


Often, we take things for granted, until we no longer have them. Each person I call, with all their varied opinions and unique beliefs and limitations, has their heart in the right place. Each person is doing exactly what they need to be doing, what feels safe and good and right.


There is no judgement—only respect, and awe, and devotion, and excitement to once again get back to the synagogue and hug one another, to sing and dance and make l’chaims and celebrate our Judaism.

The upcoming High Holiday season will be one that we will never forget. No matter what happens in the world around us, these holy days will still arrive.

The question is: how will we show up for them?

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Eve Levy
Eve Levy loves helping women connect to Judaism. She is a trip leader for the Momentum movement, and she founded her own meaningful trip organization, “Inspired Jewish Women”. Eve enjoys spending time with her husband and 6 children, blogging, dancing, or baking challah. She is also the Rabissa of Congregation Ahavath Achim in Portland.

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