#BlogElul 13: Forgive

Many years ago, during my first high holidays at Congregation Agudas Achim, I was focused on the idea of forgiveness. I had been wronged, and I wanted to forgive. I wanted to find a way past the hurt and anger, but I didn't know how to go about it.

Suddenly, during a long period of standing prayer on Yom Kippur, amid a sea of people I did not know, the Hebrew word Shalom leapt off the page at me. It was almost tangible. All four letters became larger and I traced my finger along them, soaking them in.

The power of that moment stays with me to this day. I'm still not sure I can put its meaning into words, beyond the obvious. 

I think that was a moment along a path of forgiveness. I did not suddenly find peace with the situation, but I found a path towards peace. I did not magically forgive those who wronged me, suddenly free of all bitterness and anger. But I learned that day to bring that palpable experience of shalom to my interactions with them. 

All these years later I see the fruits of that journey of forgiveness. I see the ways it enabled me to conduct myself with integrity and kindness. And I am grateful for the beauty, power, and wisdom of shalom. 

#BlogElul 12: Trust

The prompts for Elul 11 and 12 this year are exactly the same as the prompts for those same days last year. Turns out so were Days 8-10 too, but I didn't notice. For some reason, days 11 and 12 caught my attention, and I stopped trusting that I was on the right track. I checked, double-checked, and triple-checked that I had the right prompts. I think I finally feel confident that I do!

I worry about all sorts of things in a similar fashion. Sometimes my worries are valid, and more often there is no need to worry. I'm not alone. People around me worry too, a lot, about a whole lot of things that turn out just fine.

The next few weeks are filled with opportunities to worry. Big worries. The kind that keep me up at night. I know I cannot turn those worries off completely. Instead, I am going to try to breathe in, naming the worry, fully acknowledging it, and then breathe out, focusing on trust.

Breathe in, noticing how tight the worry makes me feel.

Breathe out, expanding into the idea that all is well.

Breathe in, finding that the worry no longer fills every space.

Breathe out, sinking further into the expanse of what trust has to offer.

Breathe in, feeling the rush of the waters.

Breathe out, trusting that I can also find calm waters.

Shavua Tov. May it be a good week.

#BlogElul 11: Count

My almost three-year-old son (A) and I have been reading a couple of books over and over again lately. I know that it's important for him to read the same books over and over and over again, but I'm not always too thrilled, especially since almost all the books are about trucks or other vehicles and machines. 

But, if I allow myself to relax into the experience a little, there's always plenty to appreciate: his sweet little body sitting on my lap, his soft hair right under my chin, his insistence that we go beyond the text and notice certain details about the pictures, and his somewhat random attempts at counting.

One book has pictures of tractors with various configurations of two, three, or four lights. On every page, A asks, "Why does this tractor have X lights?" The number he gives may or may not correspond to the actual number of lights, and I have no clue why the tractor has however many lights, but none of that is really the point: he is beginning to grasp that objects can be counted.

Soon enough, he'll get the number right every time. And soon enough, he'll no longer fit on my lap. 

So we read, and the tractor lights remind me to slow down and enjoy the moment.

#BlogElul 10: See

See the turtle?

It was on the beach when we arrived. A little later some kids, maybe 6 and 4 years old, came by to admire it. Suddenly, they started stepping on it. I asked them not to, but they didn't listen, and rapidly destroyed it completely. Before I could figure out what to say to them, their mother came a long with her camera to photograph the (now gone) turtle. She expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms and the whole family moved along, leaving me to rebuild. 

I am used to kids' sometimes destructive tendencies. Many a block tower has tumbled in our home! But somehow, this action bothered me. Maybe it's because turtles are an important symbol to me (the book Old Turtle is a beloved source of theological wisdom), or maybe it's because living turtles are so precious, or maybe it's just because I asked the kids not to destroy it and they paid me no attention whatsoever. 

In any case, the destruction provided the opportunity to rebuild, and I had a wonderful time re-sculpting the turtle with my own hands. 

And what does this story have to do with seeing? I saw this photo as I was browsing my photo library for an image to go with yesterday's post, and I knew right away it was my "See" image. Maybe it's because it's a little hard to see the turtle. Or maybe it's because there is a larger story behind what is seen. Or maybe it's just because I love turtles.


#blogElul 9: Hear

Shma Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad. Hear, O Israel, The Eternal, Our God, The Eternal is One.

This is the core of Jewish liturgy, a touchstone during services, familiar yet mysterious. I have vivid memories of services coming into focus around the Shma when I was a young girl. And it has continued to be a jumping off point at many times along my Jewish journey, a gateway to deeper observance and connection. 

Shma, hear, listen.

That's where it all begins.