3 Previously Frowned-Upon Behaviors to Embrace During the High Holidays at Home

September 22, 2020Rabbi Paul Kipnes

The new normal of distanced coronavirus kehilla t'filaht'filahתִּפְלָה"Prayer."  (communal prayer) offers new ways to enhance your Home High Holidays. Consider these three previously banned behaviors to warm up your worship. They might not be completely kosher, but they just might enhance your experience.

Set up a second stream for family.

When the challenges of coronavirus keep you apart, allow the benefits of the internet bring you back together. Stream High Holiday services on one device, while simultaneously streaming family or close friends on another. With Zoom, FaceTime, Duo, Hangouts or another app, your loved ones can still enjoy services in each other’s company.

And with no one nearby to shush you, you can even whisper your way through the joys of the cantor’s chanting, the wisdom of the rabbi’s sermon, or your frustrations at your separation from the sanctuary of your youth.

Pajama bottoms are perfectly proper.

Worshipping at home means you don’t have to dress up in uncomfortable or new clothes. God has gotta be more interested in the intensity of our introspection than the fanciness of our fashion.

So if you want, wear pajama bottoms or your favorite sweats to home shul, perhaps pairing them with a nicer top or a white shirt. Wrapped in a Tallit, you are dressing down to dive deep. Bodies that are more comfortable might allow minds and hearts to more seriously search our souls during the ViduiViduiוִדּוּי"Confession;" liturgical prayer recited throughout Yom Kippur; confessional said before death. , leading to more authentic t'shuvahT'shuvahתְּשׁוּבָה"Return;" The concept of repentance and new beginnings, which is a continuous theme throughout the High Holidays. .

(Of course, don’t forget when you rise while Zooming to angle the camera up when you stand up, or the conversation in next week’s breakout room onegOneg Shabbatעֹנֶג שַׁבָּתThe "joy" of Shabbat—refers to refreshments after Shabbat services. might just be about your Thomas the Train Engine pajamas!)

Sing it out loudly.

Do you sing off key? No one else is around to care.

Do you like to sing loudly? Who is going to shush you now?

Since we silence ourselves on zoom, or are unheard during pre-recorded service streams, we can and should sing out more loudly than we ever have before. Don’t worry about keeping the “meditations of your heart” quietly acceptable. Belt out your brachot (blessings) because the Holy One surely accepts the awesomeness of your al cheits no matter the volume of your vidui.

While you are at it, do you want to deepen your davening by mixing in movement while you chant the prayers? Be like Miriam and her timbrels. Jump up and do some divine davening dancing!

Remember: These Holy Days are unique.

They invite us to break through certain barriers of behavior to enhance our experiences.

So simultaneously stream your family (and friends), dress comfortably, and sing loudly. Then these Holy Days will be remembered both for the clarity of the cantor’s call to prayer as well as the creativity of your personal and spiritual connection.

Just please think twice before telling your clergy! With all their overwhelming sacred work preparing and leading services this year, they don’t need to be sidetracked to contemplate the questions about whether your creativity is quite kosher.

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