Friday, October 3, 2014

Unetaneh Tokef

On Rosh HaShanah it is written
on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

The calendar is my enemy and my friend. These days pass swiftly. Do they even matter?
How many shall pass on, how many shall come to be
who shall live and who shall die
who shall see ripe age and who shall not

We knew so many who died, those who came before us. 
But it couldn't be us, right? It couldn't happen in our house....

who shall perish by fire and who by water
who by sword and who by beast

The fire of radiation, the days and days of baths.
The needles of spinal taps and the wee bacterial beasties....
who by hunger and who by thirst
who by earthquake and who by plague
who by strangling and who by stoning

Watching as he got thinner and thinner, 
his very bones consumed by disease.
The foundations of our universe rocked....
The ground buckled and shook and threatened to swallow us whole. 
who shall be secure and who shall be driven
who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled

Neverending worry, waiting, watching, wondering....
when will the end come? What are we waiting for? 
Will it be painful? Will we watch him suffer?
Will it be quiet and soft, will he just quietly....go?

who shall be poor and who shall be rich

So many times we realized....no amount of money or power or influence can buy what we really want.
So many gifts eased our way. So much generous love cared for us each day.
And yet...in the end...we are all the same.
who shall be humbled and who exalted

Was I too cocky? Did I take my blessings for granted? Did I revel just a little bit too much in the absolute gorgeous fullness of my beautiful four? Did I thrill just a little bit too much to the delight of my children's limbs entangled in a tickle fight, filling my home with noise and laughter and wonder? Did I believe that we were invincible....that nothing could touch us? 

But repentance, prayer and charity temper judgment's severe decree.

Ah, yes. Can it be? Did we escape something far more horrible? 
Could there have been a different, more terrible way that things could have gone?
Or perhaps, this year, it's God's turn for a little repentance and my turn for a little judgment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#blogElul 29: Return

Today is the last day of Elul.
The last day of 5774.
The last day of the last year in which Sam lived.
And I can't quite get myself to the end.
Obviously, it will come. The time will tick by, the calendar will flip over, and 5775 will be here.
Will I ever be ready for another year to come in?
Will I ever feel the press of time without wishing I could stop it, and return, go back, to the days before?
Time moves forward.
The world carries on.
And we carry him in our hearts....into this new year and for always.

I feel just as fragile now as I did when we turned the calendar over to 2014.
And so I'll say the same thing:

...So we face 5775...our first Rosh HaShanah without Sam.
I am paralyzed when I think of all that he will miss. I am overwhelmed and breathless when I imagine the future and he's just not there. Yet I know that we will awaken each day, and we will move forward, even if it feels like we're slogging through a thick fog, even if it feels like we're just moving for the sake of moving, even if it feels like we're faking every moment...we will keep going.

5775, here we come. Be gentle on us, please.


Photo by Martha Abelson

Monday, September 22, 2014

#blogElul 27: Intend {Guest Post}



#BlogElul Guest Post by Rabbi Stephanie Alexander

Rabbi Jack Riemer relates the story of three demons who set out to corrupt human beings, and then come back together to compare their results. The first one describes his approach: “I tell people that there is no God. But it doesn’t work. People are too smart. They see the wonders of the world and they don’t believe me.” The second one says: “I tell people that there is a God, but that She didn’t give the Torah. But it doesn’t work. People are too smart. They look into the Torah and see how much wisdom it contains, and they don’t believe me.”


Then the third one says: “I tell people that there is a God and that She gave the Torah. But then I say to them, ‘What’s the rush? You have time to do what God wants tomorrow.’ And that almost always works.”


The best of intentions can bring out our worst.


At this time of new beginnings, perhaps we can learn from the first beginning. “Vayomer Elohim y’hi or, va-y’hi or – God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” According to the great sage, Maimonides (in his philosophical dictionary of the Torah), “Vayomer” means God “thought” or “planned.” A thought, a plan, an intention, and then – Bam! – the thing itself.

No, we can never fully imitate God … but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. This year may we work to shorten the gap between intention and implementation. And when the creative, helpful, noble deed is done, may we too have that wonderful moment of realization: “And it was good.”


________________________________________
Stephanie M. Alexander has the honor and privilege of being called mom, spouse and rabbi – three simple titles whose terseness belies worlds of joy, challenge and fulfillment.

Stephanie likes the idea of the beach more than the place itself, and prefers to travel by book as opposed to plane, train or automobile. She lives with her husband, son and adorable Cockapoo (who’s really a monster) in Charleston, SC – a city rich in beauty, charm … and stories. Her blog can be found at http://storiedlifeillustrated.wordpress.com
________________________________________

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 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.
________________________________________

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.
________________________________________

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.

 ________________________________________
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!)
 ________________________________________

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.