Letter from Rabbi Randy

October 28, 2021


When I think about Halloween in a Jewish context, it seems to me to be like an extension of Sukkot. Both holidays occur in the fall and bring people outside before winter sets in; we get closer to nature, and closer to our neighbors. Both emphasize nighttime (the rules of building a sukkah mandate being able to see the stars through the roof). Both include the notions of sharing abundance, hospitality, feasting, and delight.

I live on a particularly wonderful street for Halloween. Children come from near and far and are received by all with the most appropriate spirit. Starting when my own kids were very young, and continuing even after they have become young adults, my tradition is to sit by a campfire near our front steps and play songs on my guitar as we give out candy to the kids and hear their joke and riddle offerings. Quite often, families pause their trick-or-treating to hang around with us to converse and sing songs like ‘Twist and Shout’ and ‘Moonshadow’ at the top of our lungs.

Last year with COVID looming over us all, Halloween was different, like everything during these challenging times. Far fewer kids came around, and though I still sat outside by the campfire with my guitar, we set up the candy down where our front walk meets the street so everybody could keep a distance to keep one another safe. As for tonight, I am assuming it will be a ‘hybrid’ scene, more familiar than last year’s model, but still not close to resembling Halloween from 2019 and before. 

This ‘new normal’ feeling has been the CRC experience since we started to gradually re-open our Sukkat Shalom last summer. We have been offering some Shabbat services outside, and some in the sanctuary, alternating between those held in-person and those that have been streamed only from the home of one of the rabbis. We shared a few beautiful, meaningful, and cathartic outdoor high holiday services. We celebrated wonderful bar and bat mitzvahs, but without the communal meals afterwards. Mask-wearing and vaccination status for indoor services have been mandatory.

Starting in November, we are beginning a new phase in this process. All shabbat services, Friday night and Saturday morning, will be in-person and inside (although we will continue to stream all the services form CRC for those who want to participate from home). We also will be starting Kabbalat Shabbat services on Fridays at a new time, 7pm. Everyone who attends Friday services must be fully vaccinated against COVID, while on Saturday morning, children who are ineligible for the vaccine may also attend. Masks must be worn by all, and we are still not ready to serve food after services.

Looking back from our current vantage point, the earliest months of the pandemic and lockdown, with their heightened sense of crisis, was a time that I think our CRC family paradoxically felt incredibly connected through our isolation. Every message, each opportunity to spend time together virtually, each contact was a lifeline. Now, although we are still battling COVID, still conscious of our serious roles in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, and in making an impact on public health, that sense of urgency has receded, and along with it, some of the community bonding we experienced.

So, if you feel comfortable joining us at one or more of our in-person Shabbat services, as Sukkot and Halloween give way to Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and beyond, it would be so lovely to reconnect with you. May we continue to elevate, love, and inspire one another to help us engage in the crucial work of tikkun, repairing our worlds and healing all creation.

B’ Ahavah (With Love),

Rabbi Randy