Shavua tov my friends,
We are in the week that is honing in on our journey through the month of ELUL. We are getting closer and closer to that liminal time that is the High Holidays...what will you bring with you into the new year? What will you set aside? What strengthens you, what distracts you? These are the questions of our quest: to realign, re-engage, and re-commit. See the Torah teaching,below, for thoughts that will gird us this week. During this week, which also holds the Torah portion of Ki Tavo (see below for a bissel Torah), I offer this poem from the Muslim mystic, Rumi, who wrote his profound poetry in the early 13th century in Persia. As so often happens with Rumi, his words perfectly capture this moment in our journey towards the Days of Awe. Recall that t’shuvah, the yearning to return to how we aspire to live our lives, is one of the primary components of the Holy Awe-filled Days.
Sometimes you hear a voice through the door calling you,
as fish out of water hear the waves,
or a hunting falcon hears the drum's
Come back. Come back.
This turning toward what you deeply love saves you.
Read the book of your life, which has been given you.
A voice comes to your soul saying,
Lift your foot. Cross over.
Move into emptiness
of question and answer and question.
A bissel (little) torah for the week: we are in the parasha of Ki Tavo, which has one of my most favorite parts of Torah (I know, I know, I feel that way about all of Torah!). The opening scene describes the first fruits that you reap from your newly planted gardens. You place them in a basket, and bring them to the Priest. Here’s where it gets interesting for me. The Torah gives the farmer (i.e., us) a script to enable each and every one of us to act the priest and make the offering to our GD. This is such a radical idea, especially since so much of the hierarchy, physical layout and choreography of the Temple service is clear about who gets to do what and where they get to do it, of spaces past which the Israelite cannot go, and a priestly class that is pointedly restricted to the descendants of Aaron (the rebellion of Korah comes to mind, who challenged this idea). Yet, here we have a democratization of the priestly role: anyone and everyone who has reaped fruit from their efforts can bring it to GD and make the offering. Reading this as we do just before the Holy Days emphasizes so deeply, that no one does our t’shuva, our prayer, our inner work, except us. WE bring ourselves, the fruit from this past year, to the doorstep of the holy temple of our lives, and WE engage in a ritual that allows what we bring to the work to be handed over as a gift. NOT as sins, not as transgressions, though that is very much the language of the liturgy. Think of how we’ve ‘strayed’ as a gift we are bringing, and know that the gift, nestled in it basket of song and quiet reflection, is accepted and transformed into blessing. May this journey be a fruitful one for all of us. See you soon, our baskets in hand, and our eyes able to see the blessings that are all around.
- Blessings, Rabbi Jan