Survival guide to the High Holy Days

Published date20 September 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Many don't admit it – but many people have a love/hate relationship with the High Holy Days. While there are some aspects of this solemn season that they really love, there are others that they, to put it bluntly, actually despise

Navigating through the difficult parts takes a combination of skill, determination and planning. Being with family is, sometimes, too much of a good thing. Feasting on those special holiday foods is, always, way too much of a good thing.

Long synagogue services are de rigueur. And while they are uplifting, after a while, the high of the High Holy Days starts to turn dull. Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions to help navigate through the holidays.

I believe in advance preparation – and I'm not talking about prep time in the kitchen. I'm talking about prep time for synagogue services, done in the days, or even hours, preceding the onset of the holiday.

Pull down a few different machzorim, each with different translations and commentaries. Put them in a bag and take them with you when you leave for the synagogue.

Turn on your computer and check out YouTube. You'll be amazed at how much High Holy Day music is available – and even more amazed at the range of music.

I select a piyyut and then find a few recordings. I start with traditional melodies and then go to more popular ones. I read the commentary. I end up humming and singing the tunes. Sometimes it's Leonard Cohen. His "Hallelujah" and "Who by Fire," which is his rendition of the u'netaneh tokef prayer, are always powerful, especially at this time of year.

I've already listened to Barbra Streisand belt out "Avenu Malkeinu" for President Bill Clinton and prime minister Shimon Peres, and I compared her rendition to Shulem Lemmer's rendition.

Ochila is my personal, all-time, favorite High Holy Day prayer. The combination of solemnity required to truly speak those words, asking the Almighty to make us worthy of offering him praise and the melodies to which it is sung send chills down my spine. I love the traditional, old-time, traditional nusach, (melody) and I love the modern melody composed by Rabbi Hillel Paley.

These songs and tefilot literally get embedded in my head. In my downtime, I find myself humming tunes and melodies from the liturgy. It really sets the mood.

DURING THE month of Elul, we specifically blow the shofar to prepare ourselves for the holiness of the upcoming days. I'm fortunate in that I can blow my own shofar (pun intended). Hearing that "tekiya" blast...

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