#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 27: Bless

Photo by Condesign on Pixabay
Photo by Condesign on Pixabay

As we are nearing the end of this month of Elul, I am starting to feel the urgency of the season. Usually, when it is the sixth day, the last day before Shabbat enters, I always speed up to finish most of what I deem urgent so that I can relax and not have a pending  “fire” on the back burner when the evening comes and when I go into Shabbat mode.

So I am used to being a bit frantic once a week, but never as much as when the High Holy Days are approaching: will I be truly ready, will I have done all that could have been done to honestly look at my actions, thoughts, behaviors, intentions, relationships, promises, commitments, dreams, responsibilities?

Of course, the answer is “no”: I can always discover a new angle, another area where I made a pass, gave myself an excuse, told a white – or not so white – lie to someone or worse to myself to cover up for a lack of courage, when I thought something was too difficult or when I decided that it did not matter, to discover that it did.

The way we use time is very strange: we measure it as if it was a thing we could own, buy, give or trade: and then Shabbat is here, and that is when time tells us “I don’t belong to you, I can’t be controlled by you, look: I can stretch as much as I want and I can be a blessing for eternity“. Well, maybe time does not speak to everyone with these kinds of words, but I am trying to give the gist of what the feeling of  the day of rest is when Creation stops to go on and on and just ceases in peace. And time belongs to another world of which we can get a glimpse for as long as Shabbat is around us and as long as we have set ourselves to experience it.

 

This year, there will be one last day after Shabbat ends to get everything ready before the Day of Judgement starts. I know that I will be busy with very earthy occupations, that many people I love and care for have anticipated with me as well, in a joyful way. Not only, my son has been counting on the new month for cashing on his reward to go to the carousel, but I would love that my home also reflects the new season we will enter. Focusing on a lot of material details is often a source of stress that can easily derail one person from being present to the spiritual experience that the holy day is supposed to bring. I have lists and notebooks, there are recipes and checklists, and there are reminders and timetables. But there are all the elements of life that no one controls because there are those elements that we do not own and they belong to the categories of “what ifs” that anxious people like me tend to bring to mind too often to make sure I have scanned every possibility so that I would not lose my temper because of the unexpected.

This year, I have decided that after Shabbat enters (this post is scheduled to go out during Shabbat but it was written before, thanks to the technology that allows the prowess!) I will not fret about the unexpected and welcome anything that comes my way as an added blessing to teach me to let go.

So that I can let go of the year 5776 completely and take only its blessings for what awaits me next.

Shabbat shalom!

L’shana tova umetuka! לשנה טובה ומתוקה ! A good and sweet year to all!

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 26: Create

oakridge_lake_september

Yom Harat Olam is another way to call Rosh Hashanah and it means “the day of the creation of the world”.
In our congregation, it has been a tradition to read the story of the Creation of the World in Genesis, chapter 1 to remember this birthday and this year, I will be chanting some of the verses from that chapter recalling the creation of the fourth day: the story describes how heavenly bodies were said to be in order to separate day from night and to be signals for the holy days, the days and the years, as well as to bring light to earth.

I have never understood how some people would take this beautiful allegory as literally as they do and compare this very poetic and meaningful description of how our world functions and came into being to a very narrow understanding they have from what the words describe.

And I am not talking about the words that we use to explain or to translate or to give meaning. I am talking about the words that are chanted in a very particular trope, with their rhythm, repetition, music, and balance.

Every year, we repeat the cycle of reading the same texts, but every year they bring me new meanings, new gleanings that seem to have been produced by my experience during the past year.

There have been many moments and events that were so dark, so scary and at times it felt like the light would never come back, but it did always. And it seems it is really wise that the light and darkness are so separate, so distinct because the feelings they bring can be clearly identified and recognized and honored. There is also beauty in the darkness because it will be followed by light. Always.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 25: Intend

intend

There is a very beautiful concept in Judaism called כַּוָּנָהkavanah” which would translate as “the intention” and is actually a movement, the movement of your heart that you can feel when you really mean something – when you really mean it.

It can definitely be experienced physically. It may depend on how you are attuned to your own body and if you pay attention to very subtle sensations when trying to connect your words and your mind, your spirit and your body at the same time and in the same movement. It is a matter of awareness. It is also a matter of practice: setting an intention may take some preparation, like a ritualistic one.

If we intend to really delight our guests with a feast, we will set a beautiful table, take our fine china out, make sure we get the mess out of sight, clean our surroundings and be prepared on time.

If we intend to deliver a good speech to our public, we will make sure to prepare our text, maybe time our delivery and rehearse our movements.

When we take stock of our year before the high holy days, it should be as important as setting a beautiful table and getting our thoughts all in good order. This is when I think of kavanah as residing inside my heart because I can sense a bit of heaviness settling in advance which is different from simple “stage fright”, or this instinct to flee from something that would be scary. The questions that come to my mind are all about my honesty, my sincerity: do I really mean what my words say?  Sometimes, because I talk too much, I feel like the words are just cover-ups, that there should not be that many words to express the real intention. That is when my heart wants to jump forward and just show what it is capable of doing by just loving, opening up and praising the beauty of Creation.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 24: Hope

yellow_flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most difficult things, when you suffer from depression, is to understand the feeling of hope: it is one of those feelings that can elude you completely and it becomes only an intellectual thought when confronted with the word or the description of “hopeful”.

I can do my best to picture something I hope for and I can try to elicit an emotion that will go with anticipating the event I have pictured. I want it to make it feel exciting or motivating. It is certainly wiser to act towards an outcome with the hope it will happen. This is when the hope is real and can be carried on with integrity. It takes a lot of perseverance and not to despair ever even in the face of setbacks.

Hope and resilience seem to go hand in hand. Hope is a light in the night, towards which you walk while you continue dreaming. Sometimes it is enough to have the dream. Sometimes it requires a little bit more action, in order to transform the hope into a wish and from a wish into reality.

Holding onto hopes is a nice way of celebrating life. The human spirit needs it, especially when it is difficult to find meaning to too many events.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 23: Begin

shofar-apple-honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Shofar, apple and honey on Pixabay

Are you prepared? The first day of Rosh haShana is on this coming Sunday at sundown.

Many are busy preparing menus because Jewish holidays revolve around food immensely and there are so many reasons for this: families gather at the time of holidays in all traditions and when we gather, we partake in rituals of sharing sustenance. Food is an expression of love in pretty much all cultures, what nourishes our bodies should also nourish our spirits and certainly our souls. The work that it takes to prepare a feast is also a reflection on the many gifts that we receive during the year.

There is a tradition to eat sweet things at Rosh haShana. This is why we dip a piece of apple in honey, a fruit of the season in the sweetest food that bees have provided us with and that exemplifies the love and abundance of the Earth.

We do not wish each other a “happy new year” like we do at the turn of the secular year in the middle of winter. We do not wish each other happiness but a “good and sweet year”: we wish the year can be filled with good actions and we know that it will not avoid difficult times but we wish they do not blow us too hard, and that there still be sweetness in everything that is coming our way.

In the Sephardic tradition I follow, the meals at Rosh haShana begin with a “seder“, an order of many symbolic foods that will be the opportunity to say a blessing for each one in relation to the hopes we have for the coming year. Some play on words in Hebrew (using a pun on the meaning of the Hebrew word that is the name of the food). The jokes are not very obvious most of the time but the important is to say the blessing: I have always liked this tradition a lot and it reminds me of all the affirmations that we want to repeat as often as we can so that to convince ourselves to stay positive in all circumstances!

The list of foods that can be used for these blessings, in no particular order here, and not limited to these: carrots, leek, beets, dates, gourd, apple, sesame seeds, spinach, beans, garlic, fig, pomegranate, and fish. I always make sure I buy a fish that will still have its head because the blessing on the latter expresses the wish to be heading our people amongst nations: there is a big responsibility in such a wish, to be the leading light for others.

I cannot avoid thinking of all this at the same time we are heading into a season of political debates in the United States that are also a reflection on how our country should be heading policies as a leading nation. I pray for wisdom and courage, and most of all for the beginning of the return of peace.

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 22: End

emptysquareThere are all these moments we want they would never end, and holding onto them becomes nearly too painful as if holding tight to a rope that is been pulled by time passing by. It is as if we have never prepared enough, never strengthened our arms muscles enough and we would blame ourselves for having been negligent or not determined enough.

So, our body tells us to let go so that relief can soothe the painful feeling  and then we will deal with memories and each time the memory will surface it will have a different flavor, a new quality, because memories take a life on their own and they seem to change with our moods or maybe it is something else: maybe they really live in a different reality that we have no direct access to until we have understood something about time, about eternity, about what is and what will be.

That there is no real end, but always renewal, that the year may change its name, the place may change its appearance, something new will continue to inhabit the space, fill it with stories that never end if we care to tell them, even if it is over and over.

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 21: Love

Shavua Tov - a good week
Havdalah at my home

 

Tonight, in most Ashkenazi congregations will begin the recitation of selichot, a word in the plural form meaning “forgive me”: these are prayers and poems that are getting us in the mood for the “big day” of Atonement which will occur on Yom Kippur.

If this series of Elul blog posts has not yet set you in the mood for the highly spiritual period that is awaiting us ahead, there are other chances with Selichot to get ready: you could start listening to the melodies that are in a different trope or tune than during the rest of the year at regular services. You could start reading poems and prayers that are listing the things that we are all going to atone for, collectively, whether we have actually committed the deed or not.

This is the time when the blast of the shofar should have acted upon as it is supposed to: a call to assemble, a call to get together and feel the commonality between human beings, in one place, with a common purpose, even if we are all bringing an individual fate, experience, array of emotions, way to process and way to express ourselves. Something from our soul is calling to unite and connect. Something stronger than words, something contained in a powerful feeling that can trigger tears of joy, excitement or smile, happiness and well-being even in the face of the daily challenges, even for as long as it takes. Something coming from a place of love.

Bonus – a niggun (melody without words) in the high holy day trope

 

This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of   מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).

If you are new to the series and would like to receive the daily blogs in your inbox, you may click on the link below to sign up

Yes, please send me an email when you publish a new blog post!