Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Elul 6. High Holyday Travels

For years I was very flexible about my celebration of Rosh Hashanah. If I could, I spent it with family. If that wasn’t convenient, I found other ways to observe the holiday. Some years I went to services, some years I didn’t. What really mattered was eating something sweet and reflecting on the past and on the future.

One year I was on vacation in Sweden with my father and sister. On Erev Rosh Hashanah we were driving back to Stockholm from a weekend trip, and we stopped at a rest area. We couldn’t find apples and honey so we celebrated with a plate of cookies. The next morning we found the main synagogue in Stockholm and showed up for services. We didn’t anticipate that the prayer books would be in Swedish and Hebrew, and we had some trouble following along, but we felt that we had done something to observe the day before resuming our sightseeing.

Another year I was in Berlin, by myself. I found a synagogue on the map, but didn’t have the energy to investigate it on my own. I felt that my anonymity in the city exempted me from any formal observance, and I settled for a pastry and some time writing in my journal.

Traveling on the holidays gives them an exotic appeal and makes them more memorable, and I do think that Rosh Hashanah is more a state of mind than anything else. But I also find that B’nai Israel provides an inspiring physical place and a spiritual community that helps to cultivate reflection and contemplation. Just knowing where I will be makes the holiday sweeter than Swedish cookies or German pastries.
Anat Shiloach

Have you, like Anat, found yourselves away from home for the holidays?  How did you mark the turning of the year?  Do you have stories to share?  You can add them by clicking 'comments', or you can mail them to rgurevitz@congregationbnaiisrael.org for posting.

If you are a member of B'nai Israel and traveling over the High Holydays, you can find other Reform congregations in the United States near where you are traveling here  and a letter of reciprocity, available from our Temple office, can facilitate your visit.  You can find Progressive synagogues in other parts of the world here, and all synagogues worldwide here.

1 comment:

  1. Two years ago, during Rosh Hashono, we were on holiday in Provence in the south of France. We arranged, in advance, to attend the nearest synagogue - a Sephardi synagogue in Aix en Provence

    This proved to be very interesting, in two ways in particular. The Shul was of modest size, perhaps 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. But it took regular members about 15 minutes to reach their seat.

    This was because they insisted on kissing each person they knew several times. And this involved those already there standing up and sitting down again, a considerable challenge for the many apparent gourmets present.

    The second interesting event was the auctioning of mitzvahs, something we had never previously encountered but apparently common in Sephardi shuls. This took some 40 minutes and the Reading of the Torah could not commence until it was completed. An unusual way of fund raising which I could not recommend.

    Much of the service was recognizable but the tunes were different and there was a great deal of chanting by the reader.

    Afterwards we went to a nice restaurant and had lunch.

    A memorable way to celebrate the new year.