As we all return to our normal schedules, we find time to reflect on Yom Tov in Providence. One of the focuses of my article is to share why I think Yom Tov was so special. The local rabbonim spent much time creating the safest way to celebrate Simchas Torah and this year’s celebration had many limitations placed on our families. The hakofos would be celebrated outdoors in a masked and socially distanced environment, with families functioning in small, self-contained units. Although we were concerned at first, our celebration exceeded all expectations with the tremendous spirit of caring and respect, exceptional simchah, and special bond between families dancing together, all focusing on Simchas Yom Tov. The significance of Shemini Atzeres is focused on the connection we form with Hashem, enhanced by the fact that on Yom Tov we are removed from our daily materialistic pursuits.
The Nesivos Sholom, in one of his essays on Simchas Torah, quotes the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim as follows: “שבשעה שיהודי דבוק בה' שום מקרה ופגע אינו יכול לשלוט בו – When a Jew is connected to Hashem, nothing bad can happen to him.” The significance of Shemini Atzeres is that it is a Yom Tov where we can more easily connect to Hashem. I thought about this and realized that in our daily lives, we are bombarded with work, political messages, Covid concerns, and business and life decisions that need to be made. These scenarios can change from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. Shemini Atzeres gives us the opportunity to be removed from all these concerns for a forty-eight-hour period, when our sole pursuit on Yom Tov is to connect to Hashem through our personal learning and celebrating with our families. I then realized how fortunate, uplifting, and inspiring Chodesh Elul, the Yomim Noro’im, Sukkos, and Simchas Torah were for our community.
I was wondering – how we can take the inspiration gained over Yom Tov and stretch this special connection that we forged, carrying that inspiration forward in our daily lives? On a very personal level, I was thinking that we can commit to making our Shabbos meals, daily tefillah and Torah learning times to focus on our connection to Hashem. We can try to make our conversations and thoughts during these special times centered on our spiritual pursuits. These small changes are sure to have a long-term effect on us and on our families, allowing us to stretch the inspiration of Yom Tov and to integrate the value of connection as a guiding principle in our lives.
We are grateful to return to school for in-person learning, considering that other areas in the country were unable to do the same. Much of our success lies in the fact that our parents and shuls have been practicing mask wearing and social distancing and have been a little more cautious. This allowed our school to open for full learning immediately following Yom Tov. As we move forward in these trying times, we thank our parent body and community in advance for all the measures they are taking to keep our school safe and open. I thank the reopening committee, administration, local rabbonim and medical advisors, who deal with daily questions and concerns. Any restrictions are carefully thought out and geared to keeping our community safe. Please continue to feel free to reach out to us with any questions.
We look forward to celebrating soon as a community when the COVID mageifah will come to an end.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman