Its customary for Rabbis to give long sermons on the Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, known as a Shabbos Shuvah Drasha. We’re not fans of long speeches, so we found a way around it. We ask everyone at Shabbos Lunch to share something inspiring, meaningful or memorable about the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom-Kippur. Collectively, its a long speech, but fun to listen to!

Here’s as best as we can remember (we can’t write it down or record on Shabbat) from Shabbat Shiuvah 5776/2015. Our apologies for any mistakes or omissions.


I like that people come together to pray as a community. You’re not alone at a serious time like this. It feels that you have the support and togetherness of others.


I love the tunes in my synagogue at home. They are familiar, they are traditional, and they are so beautiful when everyone sings them together in unison.


My mother often flips to the end of books to see if they have happy endings, even before she reads the book. I can’t do that. For me it would ruin the whole suspense and experience of reading the book. These High Holidays the Book of Life is a big theme. And here’s the thing. The suspense doesn’t go away, even at the end of Yom-Kippur when there’s a sense of relief – you really don’t know what your entry says in the Book of Life. You have to lve it to find out!


One of the best things this Rosh Hashanah was the quality time spent with my family, everyone came in. I liked the time spent with my mother, we baked Challah together and that was very special.


My friends are my inspiration!


My cousin came to visit this year for Rosh Hashanah and the plan was for him to go to synagogue with my dad. But as things turned out, there was another nearby synagogue that needed a tenth man for a Minyan, where my cousin knew no one, and yet he eagerly went, without a word and without question, because he felt needed. I thought that was very powerful.


This year the cantor for Rosh Hashanah at my synagogue did something really special with the prayer called “Unesanah Tokef” the prayer has positives and negatives, and he changed the tune accordingly. In music this technique is called “Word Painting” where the melody matches and expresses the mood and meaning of the specific words.


Last night we had a Shabbat get-together in our suite and while it was a really beautiful get-t0gether, it was quite a few people and the RA’s came over to write us up for a noise violation. (What a shame, since they ought to acknowledge that we can’t go out to the bars on Friday Nights and having a meaningful wholesome friendly get-together is a great substitute the school should understand and support). Anyways, while we were getting written up by the human RA’s I realized that this time of year we’re also getting written-up by G-d, hopefully for only good things, in the Book of Life.


One of the best things about Rosh Hashanah is how the whole family comes home, and in my neighborhood the same happens with my neighbors families. It feels like a wonderful reset and restart to the new year, seeing everyone and feeling kind of whole again.


My grandfather is older, he’s in his nineties. He’s sometimes a little grumpy and often falls asleep during family dinners. He’s older, its to be expected. But this Rosh Hashanah when I walked into the house, he looked up and made a joyous greeting sound to me, cheerful and upbeat, that really made my holiday. It was short, but it was different and surprising and quite memorable.


My Rabbi this year used the GPS analogy to explain the Teshuva process. You have to know where you are now, and where you want to go. And even when you veer off that path and make a wrong turn, the GPS is there to help you get back on the road, it recalculates. (Others have used this analogy before, but what my Rabbi said that was really special was) the voice of the GPS doesn’t get angry or upset with you when you keep making wrong turns. You’d think it might start getting upset after a while or start raising its voice. But no. It keeps calm and recalculates. There’s no reason to get angry or to blame anyone. The goal is just to get back onto the road. That’s Teshuvah!


We were quite tired and busy because of all the holidays and food prep so we didn’t get to Shul. We were cutting up vegetables and preparing foods with my mother in the kitchen when my sister and I went out to take a break in another room. Then, mother urgently called us into the kitchen and told us to listen up close to the window. Listening at the window you could hear the faint sound of Shofar coming from a nearby synagogue. My mother was so eager for us to hear the Shofar, it really touched me to see her eagerness for it.


On the first night of Rosh Hashanah my mother had her work cut out for her. Almost everyone at the table had a different food allergy or preference. One was gluten-free, another was vegan, one couldn’t eat nuts, while another couldn’t eat mushrooms and certain fruits. There were other restrictions, too. It was quite the challenge to prepare food that everyone could eat. Not only did she manage to prepare for everyone, but everyone felt so cared for, and included, and there was such a lively holiday vibe around the table, it was really very beautiful – all thanks to her sensitivity and concern.


There’s a conversation that I don’t quite remember but its a big part of what they tell about my grandmother who was a Holocaust survivor. She often spoke how grateful she was to simply be alive. Her Holocaust experience gave her that perspective. Most of us are too busy with life, and enjoying too much of it, to really appreciate that very thing, the greatest gift of all – simply to be alive and how every moment has so much wondrous opportunity that we often take for granted.


In my earlier years there was a girl Rivka I was very close with. There was a time when her parents were a little hesitant about us hanging around, since I was struggling with my religious observance at the time. But she insisted on being friends and staying close, and she is a wonderful friend and was a very important influence on me. Having arrived at college, in this short time, Nikki has been a great influence on me as well. I’m thankful for these good friends in my life who help me grow.

AJ. T.

I really think its cool that we get this annual reset to start the new year with a fresh clean slate. No matter where we were last year or what we did, we have this incredible gift of a fresh start.


My grandfather passed away two weeks ago in Israel. My father was there to see him because he was sick, and after only about a day back in the States, flew back to Israel for the funeral. My grandfather was a big influence in my life, especially in matters of Judaism and interpersonal matters. One story that my uncle told typifies him very much. Once my uncle was in a park with my grandfather. There was some kind of concert in the park. Not far from where they were sitting, two Israelis got into a heated argument about a bench. One was sitting there, the other claimed it was his first. It got pretty intense. My grandfather went over to one of them, and tried to calm him down. When words wouldn’t work, my grandfather pulled out some cash and told the guy he’d pay him to find a seat somewhere else. My uncle asked why did you go to such lengths? My grandfather answered two words that typified something he felt very strongly about: “Achdut Ameinu” the unity of our people!

MR. J.

I always liked going to Shul on Rosh Hashanah and seeing people I haven’t seen in a long time. You can see who gained weight and who lost it, who had kids and who got a new job. Of course, the primary purpose of Shul is prayer especially on a day like Rosh Hashanah, but you can’t deny the social aspect, seeing people, so many people, was always a real treat.


Now that I am working full time for a long time now, taking off from work for the holidays is a big piece of it. The dates have to be worked out, they vary from year to year, but thankfully we get to spend the holidays.


The Haftorah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah always gets to me. My name in Hanna, and I feel connected in that way. She was a woman who wanted and dreamed for something for a very long time, and finally her dream and prayers come true. It’s a great story.


The Teshuvah process is about past and future, and of course the present in the middle of all of it. I feel very much that the past plays a huge role. For example, the cousins I played with as children, that bond continues and even if I haven’t seen them in a lot of years, I know and understand their needs and dreams. Our pasts play a big role and are crucial to the teshuvah process, as we return back to them.


This Rosh Hashanah I was most inspired by the students who came out for holiday meals and tradition, and for the Shofar blowing. Many of our regulars were away (though the ones here were very helpful) but we got to meet a lot of new faces and celebrate the holiday with many first-timers to Shabbos House. We’re sure glad to stayed to celebrate Rosh Hashanah here.