Wake Up!

This Hebrew month of  Elul is the final stretch before Rosh HaShanah. Jewish mystics gave us the metaphor of the Divine coming down from the heights of the heavens to walk among us, ready to meet up should we reach out.  No simple endeavor this. The sound of the shofar, which is heard at each morning service during Elul, exhorts us to WAKE UP!  Prepare yourself.  Release your grudges. Mend your relationships. Inspect your deeds this year; resolve to do better. Reach deeply within and as far out as you can and reconnect with the Source of All Creation.

The shofar’s call is a shout out to God to remember God’s promise to our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On their merit we pray to be written and sealed  into the Book of Life for the coming year.  It is layered with a lifetime of memories. It is a profound sound, eerie, potent, fillng me with equal parts hope and apprehension. Though my life hangs in the in the balance, the shofar’s sounds ground me. My life may not be in my hands, but my conduct is. My spirtual work can temper whatever might be decreed for me this year.

 

Here are two examples of the shofar being blown.

The first, from Jerusalem.  I hope I succeeded in excising the rude commercial preceding it. The second, from PJ Library, is more explanatory and each sound and then puts it all together.  What do the shofar’s sounds evoke in you?

 

Illustration at left, courtesy of Debra Darvick

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Pennies from Heaven

The kid in me was thrilled to see a scattering of pennies at the base of a parking meter. The driver obviously had no use for them. But as I moved to retrieve them, I relived a high school scene. I’d seen a penny in the hall and bent down to pick it up. It had been glued to the floor. As I rose, mortified that I’d fallen for the trick, I heard the boys’ laughter and words about Jews always stopping to pick up a penny.

Banishing the memory, I picked up the pennies, all 19 of them, and put them in my pocket.  Martin and I went on to have a lovely dinner and when I got home I put the copper Lincolns in our tzedekah box. It is nearly full. Soon I’ll empty it and donate the contents to a shelter or food pantry. I hope those boys grew up and grew wise. You don’t have to be a Jew to know that even small change can make a difference.

 

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A Prayer for the World — Harold Kushner

Let the rain come and
wash away
the ancient grudges,
the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over
generations.
Let the rain wash away
the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come
out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun
heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog
so that
we an see each other
clearly.
Let the warmth and
brightness
of the sun melt our
selfishness.
So that we can share the
joys and
feel the sorrows of our
neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will
see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished
by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with
beauty.
And let the mountains
teach our hearts
to reach upward to
heaven.    Amen

One Shabbat, I read this poem by Rabbi Harold Kushner in our synagogue’s prayerbook, Siddur Lev Shalem. It is as timeless as it is beautiful.

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