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How does one pray Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur alone?
I'm somewhat competent in praying alone on weekdays and Shabbat, with the current pandemic providing a forcing function. I prefer to be part of a community and be able to rely on the sh'liach tzibbur for certain things, but I don't have to. I've always been slow, so I don't mind skipping things that can be skipped, but I can muddle through.
The high holy days are coming up, and I do not assume that we will all be able to attend services in person by then. Even communities that are meeting in person now are limiting attendance, and almost everybody might want to come for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
I have a machzor or two, but I'm finding the possibility of handling these days on my own somewhat daunting, especially Yom Kippur. But we're not the first people to face this challenge, so I'm hoping there's already help available.
Where can I find, or can someone provide here, a "beginner's guide to fulfilling the obligations of RH and YK at home"? I'd like to know which parts of the service are required, which parts that might not be obvious require a minyan (so skip or adjust those), what to do about shofar, any practical or mechanical tips, and whatever else I don't know enough to ask.
I've cast this question personally because it reflects a problem I have, but this is of course not a request for rabbinic advice or p'sak. I'm looking for practical advice for people who will be alone on these days, whether experience-based or otherwise.
Davening by yourself is, relatively speaking, the easy part. I am sure there are others who will come up with more specifics, but people have had to do that, at times, for a variety of reasons:
- stuck in a place with only a few other Jews (or none at all) due to military, business or other reasons
- government decrees preventing gathering of Jews (all too often in our history)
For Rosh Hashanah, the Davening is actually not that different from Shabbos or another Yom Tov. The key differences are Piyuttim, which are a relatively late addition. Most of these Piyuttim are in the repetition of the Amidah and therefore clearly skipped by someone Davening alone. There are, as noted in many Machzorim, many variations as to which Piyuttim to say and when to say them. This year, we will likely find many Shuls where most of these Piyuttim will be skipped in order to minimize group Davening time.
Yom Kippur is a little different, of course. Yizkor can be said at home, as most people did this year for Pesach and Shavuos. Selichos are a little different when said privately, particularly with respect to the recitation of the 13 Middos. Neilah is an extra not found on any other day, but can be said privately like any other Tefillah, though admittedly it won't feel the same.
The big item though is Shofar. Most people don't own a Shofar, and many who do own a Shofar don't know how to blow it properly. In my area at least, the tentative plan is to have more "extra" Shofar blowings than the usual "one in the late afternoon" as most people will not, due to COVID-19 restrictions, be allowed to attend Davening at Shul, and even at the "extra" Shofar blowings there will be restrictions on the number of people attending. There will also be extra Shofar blowings around the neighborhood - this is actually a great outdoor activity for everyone to come out in front of their homes at a designated time.
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