If retailers begin displaying items for the winter holidays in September, then July isn’t too early to begin preparing for the high holidays. Believe it or not, Rosh Hashanah is just over 60 days away, followed quickly by Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah.
And, for me, there’s no more powerful way to observe our holiest of days than through a 360°experience that incorporates both giving thanks for and immersing ourselves in the world that has been given to us.
I recall a six-hour canoe trip that I took with a group through the rainforest of Belize many years ago. As we rowed through the most beautiful and lush setting, we heard howler monkeys screaming from the trees as alligators popped up their eyes from the water before swimming past us. Half way through the exhausting and exhilarating trip, we stopped along the banks and were given our pack-out lunches for the day. And while everyone else was given one thing to eat, I was given something different. I was kosher.
And, while sometimes I had wondered why I was kosher, at this moment, thinking about what I was eating and why, while having the most amazing sensory experience in the middle of the most incredible landscape I had ever seen, gave me a connection between the world within me, the world outside of me, and the world beyond that I had never felt before.
I really never experienced that kind of powerful connection again until I began to celebrate the high holidays at Isabella Freedman.
I’d spent years where holiday observance primarily meant going to synagogue for an intended spiritual experience, and then walking back out of the synagogue doors into a world where any chance for spiritual experience was interrupted by exhaust smells, loud radios, and the frantic pace of everyday life.
Suddenly, at Isabella Freedman, I could walk out of synagogue to be surrounded by the smells of mountain air and fresh vegetables, the sounds of chirping birds and bleating goats, and a pace as calm as that of the beautifully changing leaves. And I could do that in a community that wasn’t separated based on varying levels of observance but in which everyone could find a way to celebrate together.
And suddenly, I could find meaning and connection in the high holidays in a way that transcended anything I had ever experienced before.
I genuinely want to invite you to share that with me by coming to observe any (or all) of the high holidays at Isabella Freedman.
- Our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur retreats will include spirited Orthodox and Renewal davening, featuring Reb Avraham Arieh Trugman for the Orthodox minyan and Reb Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit and Lori Wynters for our Renewal services, along with classes and workshops, from the practical to mystical, that delve deep into the themes of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
- Our annual Sukkahfest , which we expect to once again sell out, will feature multiple sukkot, including our gorgeous 260-person lakeside sukkah, and an incredible variety of davenning and learning opportunities as part of an unparalleled all-stream community
- Our Simchat Torah gathering at Isabella Freedman, managed and coordinated by DaveTrek Adventures, provides a magnificent, fully-programmed holiday experience
And, of course, as with all of our retreats, the high holidays at Isabella Freedman mean the most healthy, flavorful, and nourishing AdamahFood meals, all prepared with the highest values with regard to organic, locally- and ethically-sourced ingredients (including produce from our very own farm).
Year after year, we find folks coming to Isabella Freedman high holiday retreats and having their own transformative experiences. I hope you’ll consider doing the same, and then coming back year-after-year.
As Lisa Kaplan, a Sukkahfest participant, wrote to us: “Because of Sukkahfest, Sukkot is now my favorite Jewish holiday. There is nothing like celebrating Sukkot in nature, as it was intended. Isabella Freedman is my ideal Jewish community and I look forward to this event all year. Once you come to Sukkahfest once, you’ll never imagine celebrating Sukkot any other way!”