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Lord Sacks gives his Yomtov guide to home prayer

'We have an asset which we have never normally had, which is to pray from the depths'

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Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has offered tips to those who will be praying at home over Yomtov.

“There are no saving graces in the sense of not being able to say tefillah b’tzibbur, prayer together,” he told a London School of Jewish Studies digital event on Sunday. “We are definitely handicapped this year in a way that we can’t deny.”

But on the other hand, “we have an asset which we have never normally had, which is to pray from the depths”.

Citing Psalm 130, “From the depths, I call you, o God”, which is recited during the Ten Days of Repentance, he said: “There is in the psalm a perfect expression of this, a profound, inner, personal, individual spirituality.

“I think we have never been on our own more. And I think it is important for us to explore what we discovered about ourselves during those days and bring that to our prayers.”

Lord Sacks was one of 17 presenters from the UK, Israel and America at LSJS’s Big Ellul Day, its pre-High Holy-Day programme, which attracted around 600 participants.

Rabbi Sacks said he would be immersing himself in recordings of the High Holy-Day prayers during the run-up to the festivals as he found the music “very powerful”.

Citing the Torah’s reference to Rosh Hashanah as a day of “remembering” the blowing of the shofar, he also said he would be trying to recall on the day some of the shofar blowings from his past “that had really major significance for me”.

People should not worry about not saying every word in the machzor, he said. “The truth is that silence within the soul creates space in which God can touch us and heal us.”

Explaining the religious idea of hope, he said it arose from one of the key concepts of the High Holy-Days — teshuvah, “return”, which entailed the belief that people could always change.

 

 

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