Going the “Extra Innings” During These High Holy Days

This post on If Not Now, When?, the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, was written by Cantor Laureate Sarah Sager and shared just before the High Holy Days of 5782.

When I was growing up in Chicago, I learned to associate the High Holy Days with baseball! While I know fairly little about the sport, I was aware that Chicago was home to BOTH the White Sox and the Cubs — whose stadium, Wrigley Field, could be seen out the window of the second floor girl’s bathroom at the Anshe Emet Day School where I was a student through the eighth grade.  We could actually hear the cheering crowds in the years when there were still many daytime games!

My strongest memory and the source of my association of this time of year with baseball (reinforced when the Indians were in the playoffs in the ’90s), was from the year 1959 when the White Sox were in the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was the year, in order to ensure that the congregation would be in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, that the rabbi promised to announce the score from the pulpit!  He kept his promise and although the Sox did not win the series, I believe that the congregation learned something about living in the real world while simultaneously praying and working for the ideal world envisioned by our tradition.

While I am not one who routinely uses the metaphor of baseball to discuss any number of life’s issues, as news of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has increased, and as Fairmount Temple, with other Cleveland congregations and congregations all over the country deciding to again go virtual for the High Holy Days, I kept thinking of “extra innings” and how this time of year reminds us of the wins and losses, the ups and downs, the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of the baseball season!

We are all disappointed.  For some of us, the news that we might be alone again on the High Holy Days is painful.  We had all envisioned something quite different, something joyful and restorative, something fulfilling and comforting after the many months of caution and seclusion and distancing and masking and being constantly on “alert”.

We didn’t anticipate extra innings:  not if we “followed the rules,” not if we were fully vaccinated.

But this isn’t a game we’re playing.  This is real life in a real world where major segments of the population behave differently than we might hope, where others respond to the same information with conclusions we might not understand, and where consensus is an increasingly rare phenomenon.  Our current reality teaches us that this is not the world we pray for, this is not the world we are working for, and we must not give up!!  That is NOT an option.  We can be disappointed, we can feel defeated, we can be angry and frustrated and discouraged, but then we pick ourselves back up, acknowledge our reality, and get right back to work!!  

That’s what Jews do.  We have been doing it for centuries in the face of every kind of set-back and devastation, in circumstances dire and difficult.  Our past does not minimize, in any way, our current challenge.  It serves only to remind us that we know how to do this, even when we have to do it again, even when we have to do it many times.  We are the ancient people who are still here when so many other nations are not.  We are the people who, no matter how hard it is, no matter how much we might want to act differently, we choose life.  With full hearts and hopeful spirits, we choose life and blessing in whatever form the reality of that choice might take.

At this historical moment, we know that our disappointment translates into being “SAFE at Home”!!

May we, together, even in our distance from each other, have a New Year of HEALTH, strength, sweetness, and goodness,