While the sanctuary awaits our return, the Temple remains the ‘school house of the soul’

By Betsy Frank

Betsy Frank is UHC para-rabbinic fellow and president.

Recently, a visitor to our website asked for information on Rabbi Samuel N. Deinard (1872-1921), who served our congregation during the last years of the 19th century.

Rabbi Alexander Lyons
My research took me to Herman Koren‘s Commemorative Book: 150th Anniversary of the Jewish Community in Terre Haute 1849-1999, where I came across a quote from the first ordained rabbi in Terre Haute, Dr. Alexander Lyons. At the dedication of the first Temple Israel in 1891, Rabbi Lyons described the synagogue as the “school house of the soul”.

I thought about this quote as the month of Elul, when we prepare for the High Holy Days, began. This year is certainly different because our Temple, since March, has conducted its business virtually.

The pandemic has upended our spiritual practices. And yet, participation in our weekly Zoom services has been great. We have acquired two new members and others have expressed interest. We can truly say that the physical and virtual Temple really is the school house for the soul.

In this school, we can prepare for the High Holy Days, even if we will be celebrating from our homes and not at the Temple, as in years past.

Time for a spiritual checkup

A recent Union of Reform Judaism article suggested that during the High Holy Days we perform a spiritual check-up to take stock of our inner core, just as we do with our healthcare providers.

As we prepare for the High Holy Days, consider these questions:

  • Without the physical space of the sanctuary to provide spiritual comfort, what can you do to create a sacred space in your home?
  • Where can you participate in services in your home that will allow you to truly engage?
  • What environment will you create?
  • What attire will you select? After all, during the High Holy Days, we usually dress up.

Often, we hold a service in the cemetery to honor those who have passed away. We won’t have that service this year, but you can visit the cemetery on your own or remember those who have passed in your own special way.

Let’s make the experience meaningful

Yes, the High Holy Days will be different this year. But they will still be meaningful. As a congregation we are committed to helping provide that meaningful experience for all of you.

On another note, please welcome our new student rabbi, Emily Dana. Emily will be with us during the High Holy Days and once a month for services, Torah study, religious school and other activities.

If you wish to meet with Emily one-on-one, virtually, please contact me or Norma and we can put you in touch.

Dick and I wish you a happy and above all a healthy New Year.

Shana Tova,

Betsy Frank

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