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    Yom Kippur dreams without shule

    The following article by Rabbi Raymond Apple originally appeared in The Australian Jewish News on 25 September, 2020.

    Dreams are odd things. We never know when to expect them. They come upon us at the strangest moments. Sometimes they are pleasant, sometimes ugly. They can evoke places, persons and periods that vanished years ago.

    In my case they mostly awaken thoughts of shule, probably because most of my life was played out in and around synagogues.

    This year when I can’t go to shule and will probably daven in the carpark minyan at a nearby block of flats, I am sometimes woken up at night by shule dreams about the funny things that happened on Yom Kippur.

    Like the year when we had security problems and the guards stopped an Israeli diplomat from entering the building with a revolver.

    Or the year when everyone had to say “Shema Yisra’el” to the non-Jewish security man.

    Or the year when a member seemed to have a gun with him but it was only a stick of “wurst” for after the fast (did he realise how it would smell all day?).

    I also have “rabbi” thoughts about the Yom Kippur sermons I used to give and how hard it was to make myself audible in such a vast building with such a massive attendance.

    I think of the year in London when I didn’t need to prepare a Neilah sermon because the previous year I felt ill during the afternoon, needed an appendicitis operation, and delayed the Neilah sermon till the following year.

    This year I won’t be giving any sermons. Nor will the big crowds gather. Even those who used to walk home for miles on Kol Nidrei night and were exhausted when they came back the following morning.

    Most of the synagogues will echo with the silence. Some will have services for scattered congregations. COVID has changed the norm.

    Many people have been warned they are high risk by reason of age or illness. My wife and I are in the old-age cohort but we are fortunate that we have a minyan to go to. Others will have to stay home.

    Not everyone will be able to say the Yom Kippur prayers. Some will recall the traditional tunes even if they aren’t too sure of the words and will content themselves with humming the melodies. Everyone will miss the feeling of community.

    One of the things we can all do during the week is contacting our shule neighbours to see how they are doing.

    Hopefully, with or without a shule or minyan to go to – many will find themselves thinking Yom Kippur thoughts. Such as: What have I become? Have I made even a slight difference to the world? Would anyone miss me if I weren’t here?

    There will hopefully be some Jewish thoughts. For example: Do I know enough about my faith? Could I increase the amount of Jewishness in my life? Could I cope long term without the synagogue?

    There have to be Israel thoughts. How much does Israel mean to me with all its (and my) failings? Can the media be trusted in its view of Israel? What have Israel and the Holocaust contributed to the strengthening of civilisation?

    There are so many things to work out about ourselves and who, what and where we are.

    In my case there will be some “rabbi” thoughts. Did I do anything really important for Jews and Judaism in my lengthy rabbinic career? Did I speak, write and teach adequately as a rabbi? Should I have been a better people-person, showing more real interest in what people were doing?

    These days I daydream (and have night-time reveries) about myself and about my fellow Jews and Israelis. If I weren’t there would anyone really notice (apart, I hope, from my wife and family)?

    I have enjoyed being Jewish. Has Jewishness enjoyed me?

    I hope (Im Yirtzeh HaShem) to be back in shule next year … see you there!

    #coronavirus #corona #covid-19 #covid19

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