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What Happens After the High Holidays?

What Happens After the High Holidays?

The hard work is behind us.

We prayed, chanted, cried, healed, remembered, re-aimed our arrows of good intentions toward the target of new priorities, and reflected on trying not to deflect.

We focused.

During Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we listened and heard inspirational, sometimes challenging, and ever-genuine pleas, both verbalized and sung, from our rabbis, our cantors, and our fellow congregants. We marveled at our executive directors and professional staff and maintenance crews for the magic they orchestrated behind the scenes.

We got swept up in the moments.

We sought camaraderie or sought to hide. We opened ourselves to our vulnerabilities and tried not to feel self conscious when tugging at tissues. We read familiar passages with a sense of longing and explored the new Mishkan Hanefesh prayer book with excitement and wonder and freshness.

We smiled.

We held our collective breath at the long haunting, thrilling, slumber-awakening “tekiah gedolah,” the blow of the shofar. We wanted to stay in this suspended time of aloneness and togetherness, this odd blending of painfulness and joy.

In the middle, there was the one-time-only Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Return – another chance, now gone.

Already, I have felt my arrow quavering, but I know that I can tweak my aim yet again on this upcoming Shabbat – and on the next and on the next.

Return need not only happen once. Some gates are ever open.

The hard work is behind us.

Or is it?

Kerry Leaf is the director of North American board engagement and development for the Union for Reform Judaism. She partners with exceptional lay leadership from congregations throughout the United States and Canada, facilitating their work with URJ staff, partners, and affiliates to strengthen congregations, promote audacious hospitality, engage our youth, and work towards tikkun olam (repairing the world). Kerry also served as past president of five non-profit boards, but her most challenging and rewarding volunteer presidency was of her former synagogue. She is currently a member of Am Shalom and Congregation Hakafa, both located in Glencoe, IL.


Kerry Leaf
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