Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Shemini Atzeret 5781

Dear Friends,
 
As we enter the final days of the Tishrei holy days, I want to affirm what we’re missing, and appreciate what we still have.
 
True, we will not have a full sanctuary for Hallel, Yizkor, and Geshem on Shabbat morning, and we will not chant our chapter of Kohelet in the interest of time. Indeed, we will miss singing and dancing at Hakafot on Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I will miss harassing our guest musaf daveners on Simhat Torah, when we are usually on the irreverant side. And we will miss escorting two people from our community for the special aliyot of Hattan/Kallat HaTorah/Bereshit. It is always so festive when we honor people for this celebration, and it’s such a great note on which to end the Hagim.
 
It’s important to name the losses, and it’s equally vital to affirm the blessings. Other communities not so far from us are suffering COVID outbreaks and have closed their in-person davening; we remain safely open. We have a chance to say Yizkor because there will be a minyan in shul, and you can join us online (again, remember to set your device before Shabbat). And we will enjoy the emotions of finishing the Torah reading and the electricity when we read the Creation story at its immediate restart. Cantor Zim and I are making sure that while the service is streamlined, it’s also authentic and joyous. And we can all be sustained by the Simhat Torah we imagine for the future, with sights and sounds of festivity in our mind’s eye. 
 
Something that brings me joy is that Janet Hiller-Jacobowitz worked very hard to prepare the entire Sukkot maftir Torah readings. Here’s a clip of her Torah reading
 
I’ve pre-recorded chapter four of Kohelet, and you can hear it here.
 
Tradition holds that Ecclesiastes is one of three books written by the wise King Solomon, this one in his later, somewhat cynical years. But what if his cynicism came at a different stage in his life? For a hilarious look at the making of Kohelet, check out this sketch from Hayehudim Baim–The Jews are Coming.
 
I’ll speak more about Kohelet on Shabbat morning, with a connection to a recently-departed Jewish rock star. 
 
Wishing you a Shabbat ShalomHag Sameah, and as always good health 
 
Rabbi David Wise