Neilah in the dark - at Great Park

  • RabbiHazdan
It was late Yom Kippur afternoon at Great Park. Smelling salts were being passed around to revitalise the congregants who had spent the day fasting in prayer. The Mincha service was almost concluded and seats were rapidly filling in anticipation of Neilah. And then the unthinkable happened. The shul was plunged into darkness and the air conditioners gasped their last breath.
by RABBI DOVID HAZDAN | Oct 19, 2017

And then a flurry of activity began. Was it local? Was it a short load shedding? And how would a shul brimming to capacity, deal with the final moments of Yom Kippur in the dark?

Many hands, driven into action by the urgency of the hour, set up chairs outside the main entrance to the shul, then platforms for the choir and chazzan. Meanwhile the sermon in the shul continued with the rabbi leaving the congregation more and more in the dark.

And then the rapid redeployment of the entire community into the confined space outside the shul, which was holding on to the remaining minutes of daylight. The mechitza was set up and a Torah was placed prominently at the front. Some sat, most were standing in a huddle.  The adrenalin had spurred the community way beyond the effects of smelling salts!

Chazzan Mark Samowitz and the magnificent choir, lifted the spirits of the community, assisted by the fresh air and the chirping birds. The community participated and responded as never before, singing together in the pop-up designer shtiebel that we had suddenly, temporarily, created.

With super-power forces of night vision, Mark carried us to the crescendo. The stirring singing of “Hashem Hashem” and “Avinu Makeinu” was followed by the rousing proclamation in the dark: “SHEMA YISRAEL” …. “BARUCH SHEM KEVOD”….”HASHEM HU HAELOKIM…”

Rabbi Simpson quipped to the overflow service that had camped on the other side of the campus: “Isn’t this the true meaning of Neilah? Hashem is reminding us that we need to move! We cannot leave Yom Kippur and find ourselves exactly where we were before. We have to make a move!”

Then the eerie elongated sound of the shofar pierced the darkness, closing the most memorable Yom Kippur in the over 130 years’ history of the shul - and to many, the highlight of the Days of Awe at Great Park 5778.

Challenges are for solving. They are G-d given stepping stones to growth. With positive collective energy the darkness can help us to see as never before.  The Gates of Neila had opened new doorways of strength for the Great Park Family.




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