Hinei Ma Tov-How Good (and Different) It Is To Be Together

By Mark Sokoll
President/CEO, JCC Greater Boston

With the setting sun on Monday, September 6, Rosh Hashanah will enter our homes and our hearts and displace Labor Day, the annual end of summer holiday. What a strange year to think about being together for the holidays. Most unusual is the High Holidays are so darn early. Never in my lifetime have they been on time.

It will surely not be the only unusual thing about this year. Holiday tables will all look a bit different due to the delta variant and young children still unvaccinated. Synagogues will have seating capacities and special protocols, masks along with tickets required. Friends are deliberating if, and how, they can be together. Grandparents are making choices to ensure they can safely be together with their grandchildren. Our annual Sokoll Family Rosh Hashanah afternoon open house, cancelled.

How can we find sweetness in being together when being together looks and feels so different?

I turn to both Jewish tradition and my beloved Grateful Dead for answers to this very relevant question.

Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand Says, "Don't you see? Gotta make it somehow on the dreams you still believe Don't give it up, you got an empty cup That only love can fill, only love can fill" (Comes a Time-lyrics and music by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter)

This pandemic that just will not end, has not deprived us and defined us by what we have lost. It has reminded us to not waste time, to build a fence around that which we treasure, to fill our cups with love of that which is most precious to us. I feel closer to and more in love with my partner in life, Marjie, than ever before. More in love, if that is possible, with my children. Love for my friends, I have discovered, is a gift to me.

I truly love my colleagues and staff here at the JCC. The best, most creative and dedicated people imaginable with whom I am privileged to spend so much time every day (except Shabbat and Sunday!).

Jewish tradition teaches, “V’Ahavta L’Re’acha Kamocha” and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Rabbi Akiva called it a “Klal Gadol B’Torah” a huge principle of Torah. But the line immediately preceding this teaching in V’Yikra- The Book of Leviticus, says “you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against someone from your own nation.”

To really love you have to let go of things that annoy you, anger you, make you crazy. Then you can only love the other if you actually love yourself. And that takes a lot of work.

Don’t give up. Hold on to the dreams you still believe. Hinei Ma Tov, how good it will be to be together this year even if it is very, very different.