BY DEBORAH MOON
“This year is going to be different,” said Kesser Israel Rabbi Kenneth Brodkin in the introduction to a Zoom conversation he and his wife, Aviel, led about celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.
He said it has made him wonder: “Are we a shul-centered people? Yes and No.”
“The Jewish people have always worshipped as a people – the community of Israel,” he said. Noting Judaism is centered in the home, the office, the kitchen, the bed we sleep in, he added, “We are a community-centered people; we are also a people in service of Hashem wherever we are.”
Aviel added, “Our people have experienced the High Holidays in all different experiences – in the beit midrash, in concentration camps, with an individual in the hospital… We are able to celebrate yontif in whatever situation we are in.”
She shared her own experiences of celebrating the holidays at home with an infant or toddlers and called it a powerful experience – “It’s just you and Hashem in your home.”
The rabbi has created this printable "High Holiday Davening Guide” for those praying at home: https://images.shulcloud.com/13543/uploads/documents/High-Holidays-2020/DaveningGuide2020.pdf.
It lists appropriate page numbers in several machzors.
Rabbi Brodkin also offered some practical tips for celebrating at home. He said advance preparation is paramount:
• Create a seder – an order – for the day. Plan out the day in advance.
• Set time to daven (preferably at the same time as the community; schedule: jewishportland.org/high-holy-days).
• Set a place, a sanctuary in your home, which could be a room, a corner or even a chair. And have a machzor (prayerbook).
• Have reading set aside for the day. The rabbi recommends The Book of Our Heritage: The Jewish Year and Its Days of Significance.
• Have a multiple course meal planned to make it more significant.
• On the eve of the holiday, take a shower and set out nice clothing.
• Plan time for a walk, time to think.