Breathe in the fragrance of round challah and honey cake. Experience the newness of the synagogue décor and the clothing. Hear the shofar and heed its call.
The High Holy Days are a treat for the senses, but they are so much more. They give us a chance to shut out our daily lives and experience our deepest feelings. They give us a chance to think about our lives and our relationships and how to make them better. Best of all, they give us a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves – a link in a long chain of tradition, a link to the past and the future of Judaism.
In the final day of Moses’s life, the Jewish people, the new generation about to enter the Holy Land, gathered to make a covenant with God. The parashah, Nitzavim, admonishes everyone there and everyone not there, people of every occupation, people of every walk of life, to carry out the demands of the Torah.
Who are the people not there? They are the people of future generations, those who can feel as if they were standing there. In other words, they are us if we observe the High Holy Days fully and wholeheartedly.
For every observant Jewish American who works or goes to school outside of the Jewish community, there is always the explanation of the days off at this time of year. Then there is the need to shake off the concern about missing something in the mundane world and the reaction of those outside of the Jewish world who may not understand what the High Holy Days are.
We need to forget all of that for the time being. We need to experience the feeling of being enveloped together in our tradition, remembering our past and praying for our future. We need to be there for the sake of all Jewish people who ever lived and who ever will.