Saturday, September 20, 2014

#BlogElul 25: Begin {Guest Post}


#BlogElul Guest post by Kim Phillips
Three women-friends of a certain age spend a day at a friend’s lake house. He tells us there is a great cliff for jumping into the lake, that we should take the boat over there. We do, and we scramble up the hill like not-so-young she-goats. The cliff is about 30 feet high but, from the top, looks like we’ll be jumping off the Empire State Building. Two of us walk up to the edge and immediately decide against it. The third friend never hesitates—just walks straight to the edge and steps off. Huge splash. What’s a gal to do? We jump. It was so much fun we did it over and over, just like kids.
I teach adult Hebrew and am always in awe of my students. Learning a new language gets harder as we get older, and Hebrew is a bit more challenging than most: it reads from right to left, has a whole different alphabet, and operates on system of word-roots that are somewhat inexact and hard to translate. But adult learners are tentative for other reasons. Unlike kids, who are a bit more absorbent and who understand that they haven’t had an opportunity to know a thing, adults are fearful. Shouldn’t I know this already? What if I look like a dummy? This is the self-talk.
Moses sent scouts into Canaan, wanting to know “what kind of country it is, are the people who dwell in it strong or weak?” (Num. 13:18) The midrash says that if the inhabitants of a land live in the open, it shows they are strong; living in a fortress is a sign of fear.
It is Elul. We are poised on the brink. This year, what will we do? Will we remain on the edge, or will we have new physical and spiritual experiences? Will our bravery be an example for someone else?
Go ahead: jump.
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Kim Phillips is a Nashville-based Judaica artist, marketing consultant, certified pararabbinic and mom to Jacob the Most Awesome Cat. Her work and blog are at www.hebrica.com.
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

#blogElul 23: Love {guest post}

Once in a while, I consciously remember love is a verb. Feelings--such as happy, sad, grumpy—are adjectives. But love is a verb and verbs require action.

Sometimes, I ask what action love requires. And the answers used to come clearly and quickly. Hugging. Encouraging. Sewing. Laughing. And sometimes even cooking (sigh).

But recently the answers seem more varied than I used to think. Because waiting is an action. So are standing patiently and holding my breath. Keeping silent is an action too.

I’m an active person. I run. I go. I do. But children get older and so do parents. And love asks more.

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Ellen, Phyllis's wise and wonderful cousin, wrote this and then read it back and realized just how middle-aged she really is. (This bio is a mashup of my bio and hers!)
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

#blogElul 22: Dare


Dear Abraham,
How dare you????
I would never
ever
ever
ever
have given him up willingly.
No matter what God said.
No matter what anyone said.
Sincerely,
Me

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! This year, I'm not doing a linky or anything like that -- I'm conserving energy! So be sure to tag your posts on Twitter and Facebook so I can catch them with my alerts....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#blogElul 21: Change


A year ago on the Jewish calendar, on the 21st of Elul, was a very big day of change for our family.

Change
is
hard
painful
and enormous

and yet sometimes
exciting
enriching
and full of blessing.

Sometimes
I'd rather
just
stay
the
same.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#blogElul 20: Judge


The Divine Judge.

That's the "judgment" that we talk about on the High Holy Days.

God as Divine Judge.

One of the days for Rosh HaShanah is Yom haDin, the Day of Judgment.... "when even the hosts of Heaven are judged."

I have no idea how I'm going to read those words this year.
I have no idea how I'm ever going to consider God to be a fair and true Judge.
I have no idea how justice plays into it at all.

But I've got the rest of my life to ask the questions.
Which doesn't seem fair at all.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#BlogElul 19: Ask {guest post}

BlogElul guest post by Rabbi Anne Persin

Ask

When I first started writing this post, I kept focusing on the curiosity type of asking.  What it means to ask others about themselves, to be asked about yourself. I have always tended to be a curious sort and I have always been delighted to have others be curious about me.  So, this concept of asking was not only easy for me but welcomed!

But what about the other kind of asking?

What about the request kind of asking?

The request kind of asking has never been all that easy for me - asking for things... for help, for time, for people, for attention.  Deep inside the recesses of my mind, I have convinced myself that I should be able to handle things on my own.  If I truly needed something that would be one thing, but what more do I need than food, clothing, shelter?  Back in those recesses everything else are merely wants!  Of course, consciously, I know full well that I need a lot more than the just the basics.  All of us need help, time, people, attention.  All of us need care, consideration, forgiveness, love.  If only we were able to ask for all of that.

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Rabbi Anne Persin is my very good friend and one of the best tantes my kids could ever have.

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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#blogElul 18: Pray {guest post}


#BlogElul Guest Post by Stacey Robinson

I am reminded of the midrash of King David and the origins of the Adonai S'fatai, which is the prayer we say at the beginning of the Amidah. David, the rabbis tell us, had sent a man to his certain death, all for the sake of satisfying his own selfish desires.  The man, Uriah, was a general in David’s army, and David sent him to the front, knowing that it was certain death. But he really wanted Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. And he was king, so he gave the orders. On the night before the battle, he had a sudden attack of conscience, and so sent Uriah a note, telling him to return home. But Uriah was an honorable man, and he would not be dissuaded by David’s sudden change of heart.  He was killed in battle, along with most of his troops.  David got word of Uriah's death just before evening prayers.

What was he to do?  He knew that he would have to talk to God, to ask forgiveness.  But-- and here's the hard part-- David's fear: what if God said no?  What if God refused?  David ran into the fields, running from himself, from his fear, from God, until he could run no farther. How could he ask God for forgiveness, when he couldn't forgive himself?  He stopped, just as the setting sun hit the horizon, staining the sky with the colors of royalty: crimson and gold and deep purple, and he cried out, in his fear and longing "Adonai s'fatai tiftach ufid yagid t'hilatecha..."

God, open my lips, that I may declare your praise...

And with that prayer-- filled to its very edges with pain and humility and hope and despair, David was forgiven.

Well sure, the voices in my head whisper, God can forgive David.  Let's face it: he's, well, David.  His very name means "beloved." And me? Not even close. All bets are off.

It is my greatest longing, my unrequited quest-- to be redeemed. To be forgiven. To dance in the palm of God's hand. To believe, if even for an instant, that though I may not be David, though I may not be Beloved, I may find a small piece of that forgiveness, and that that may be enough.

I have spent a lifetime yearning for redemption. I have spent an eternity of lifetimes searching for God. I have declared my disbelief in God even as I feared that God didn't believe in me. I have shouted my rage and demanded answers and whispered my praise.  And the thing I come back to, again and again, like a gift of impossible and breathless wonder--

It is not what I pray that matters.  It is that I pray.

For all my yearning, for all my longing, what I don't ever realize is that I am redeemed. I have not been abandoned by God. Neither have I been forgotten. David had it right in his psalms: we cry out to God and so we are healed. He didn't tell us "God only hears the pretty words.  Therefore, speak only of love and praise, for only then will you be heard." No, it's pretty clear: we find healing and redemption because we cry out in our anger and our fear. 

There was a time when I stood in prayer and my knees began to buckle from the weight of my sorrow, when I was filled with an ocean of pain and loss, when I wanted to curse God-- when I did curse God-- there were hands that reached out to hold me steady, and strong arms to carry me through to firm ground.  When I demanded of God, to God-- where the hell are You?  I was answered: here.  No farther than the nearest heartbeat, in the still small voices of all those around me, who showed me, again and again, that I was not alone.  Even in my pain, even in my doubt and despair, I was not alone.


In my faith, in my prayer, what I find, again and again-- what I am given, again and again, is grace.  What I get is strength and courage to face what life has placed in front of me in that moment...even if that thing is the death of my beloved brother.  My faith is not a guarantee that I will never know fear, or that only good and happy things will happen.  My faith, my prayer allows me to put one foot in front of the other and know that I will be carried through.  And in that exact moment, the moment I take that step, I am enough and I am redeemed.  And in that moment, I dance in the palm of God's hand.
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Stacey is a poet, an essayist, a mom, stumbling about, searching for God and a decent cup of coffee. Her digital home is at http://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com.
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The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at imabima.tumblr.com. Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! Read more about #BlogElul here.