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Clergy Column by Rabbi Jeremy Morrison


The Season of Return and the Season of Change

This is the season of return. We are on the verge of celebrating the New Year of 5782 and of beginning Aseret Yamei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. The core of the Hebrew word for “repentance,” teshuvah, is the word shuv, meaning, “return.”  I am writing this column immediately after our commemoration of Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, during which we chanted these well-known words from Lamentations, Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha v’nashuvah. Chadeish yameinu k’qedem: “Help us return to you, Adonai, and we shall return, renew our days of old” (Lamentations 5:21). In the weeks ahead, and in many meaningful ways, we will be “renewing our days of old” at Beth Am. More than any year in memory, the High Holy Days at Beth Am will be an experience of return and renewal: a return to our campus, of in-person reunions, of a return to our pre-pandemic communal rituals enriched by beautiful music, the spirit and commitment of our members, and our genuine care for one another. After last year’s online, virtual experience of the High Holy Days, it will be a joyous experience to be worshipping together in three dimensions!
This is also a season of change. As much as the upcoming High Holy Days at Beth Am will be like the “days of old” they will also be different from recent years. Perhaps the biggest change will be the experience of coming home to our campus, after a period of twenty-five years (!), for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. My colleagues and I are excited to sing, pray and study with you in our Sanctuary, Beit Kehillah and Outdoor Chapel. We want you to be prepared for some significant differences from past years:

Evening Services: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Kol Nidre) evening services will be streamed online with no in-person attendance. Our Tot Service each evening (@5:00 PM) will occur in person in our Outdoor Chapel and will also be streamed online.

Morning Services: Early and Late Shifts for outdoor services on the mornings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. You have the opportunity to choose which services you’d like to attend in person and/or livestream. We will all come together for the afternoon service on Yom Kippur in a single service — in person and livestreamed.

Parking: We have secured overflow parking across the street from Beth Am at Stanford medical offices located at 1050/1070 Arastradero Road. There will be a golf cart shuttle to our campus. Please give yourself a little extra time to park. We encourage you to carpool.

Family Services at Mitchell Park: We are excited to pilot this experience for families with children in Grades 2-7 on the mornings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Most everything else, I promise, will be very much the same: wonderful music led by our Cantor and sung by our High Holy Day Choir; service leadership incorporating you, our congregants, for many honors and the chanting of Torah and Haftarah; thought-provoking sermons, and study sessions led by our members on Yom Kippur.
The root of the word shanah, as in the phrase Rosh Hashanah (the New Year), is Shin, Nun, Heh. The letters can form the word for “year” (shanah), but these letters also comprise the cores of the Hebrew words that mean “change” (shinui) and “different” (shoneh).

Although this is the Season of Return, our goal, in every year, is not for this to also be the Season of the Same. During the Aseret Yamei Teshuvah we strive to break free from the sameness of our lives, to counter the risk of an eternal return to the same place and the same state, year after year, and to meet the challenge to become a helical people: coiling in a constantly changing plane, an upward spiral of existence.
When we say Shanah Tovah to one another — which I am excited to say to you in person on Rosh Hashanah! — it is not simply a greeting, but a statement of a deeply held and enduring aspiration that this will be a happy and good year when we will combine commitment with vulnerability; a year when we will reach new heights of relationships with one another and pursue positive change for our community and our world.
My clergy colleagues and I look forward to sharing these meaningful days with all of you, and send warmest wishes for a healthy and peaceful New Year.


Rabbi Jeremy Morrison


[1] The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament definition of eidah, p. 3.

Tue, September 21 2021 15 Tishrei 5782