Many people have said to me that whoever put together the Jewish calendar did a terrible job. After all, five of the core Jewish holidays fall within the first four weeks of Tishrei. Why couldn’t some of them have been saved for Heshvan, which has no holidays, or for the dry spell between Shavuot and the three weeks of mourning?
I see things differently: that Tishrei presents an amazing opportunity for us to reconnect with our families and our community. By placing so many holidays in such close proximity, we are able to reconnect with God and with our tradition in a deep, heartfelt way during this time of year. Now that everyone is back from summer vacation, this is a perfect time to reconnect with family and friends at the synagogue.
I also see a great opportunity for clergy during the beginning of Tishrei. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur also the only times of the year that the majority of Jews attend synagogue services, so it provides rabbis and cantors with an opportunity to touch them and leave them wanting more. If the High Holiday services touch one’s soul, there is a greater chance that he or she will come back for Sukkot, Hanukkah, a Shabbat service or a social or cultural event at the synagogue. These holidays are a gift in enabling us to reconnect with those looking for spirituality, a chance to feel God’s presence on the holiest days of the year. Let us be mindful of this as we head into Yom Kippur and let us maximize this time to reconnect with those on the margins of our congregations.