#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 23: Begin

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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).

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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).

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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).

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#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 20: Fulfill

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Photo: Key and Ivy on Pixabay

It has been a pretty harsh year. On so many accounts, the past year was filled with difficult events to process. Some very personal, others that affected the world at large, others again that touched those I cherish, and many of the events that come to mind filled a news cycle that seems to be hopping from one thing to another without giving any chance to pause and take action, but only comment briefly and blurt out some very polarized opinions.

Because of the turmoil, I find it difficult to redirect my thoughts on what has been accomplished during that past year, all these months that followed last year’s promises or vows, hopes and resolutions. If I look only at that aspect of what we went through, it makes it difficult indeed to measure how many giant steps were still taken, how many good things were carried out, and how much has been brought to fruition.

But introspection should always measure that sense of integrity for what we believe in, the mission that we have assigned ourselves to, even if we are still on the journey to fulfill it, even when there are times it feels a daunting task and we would temporarily fail at being enthusiastic about it.

 

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 19: Judge

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Photo: Scales by Aitoff  on Pixabay

When it comes to feeling judged or being judged, some unpleasant sensation of defense comes to mind. It is not uncommon to reject the notion, to rebel against the idea of being judged.

And yet, we keep doing it ourselves. To the others’ or to ourselves. We measure against what we believe is right or wrong, well done or imperfectly. We constantly look at our actions and instinctively know whether we should be proud or not about them. But because it leaves us with a slight discomfort we seldom stop at actually judging that sense of pride.

Because there is a positive pride that can actually take us towards our best self when we recognize our identity and how our actions can best serve it. This pride allows us to stand tall and claim the respect from the others if we are mistreated. This is also how we can measure if we are mistreating others and it should not prevent us from making amend or working towards forgiveness: so that we can honor that positive pride and genuinely have no second thoughts about who we really are.

But if our pride is preventing us from striving towards our best self, and on the contrary serving only self-aggrandizement, this will certainly be judged unfavorably and measured against us.

There is a fine balance, worth thinking about: it is not easy to recognize our wrongs, our mistakes and yet it is the only way we can change the course of destruction.

Each year, when the holy day of Rosh haShana, the day of Judgment comes around I get to reflect about those notions that are not easy notions to grasp: it has taught me to become more flexible and less stubborn. It has helped me become what I recognize and judge as a better person I can now be proud of.

 

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 18: Ask

Hebrew chai symbol
Eighteen in Hebrew – also “‘hai” = living

Eighteen is a favorite number in Jewish tradition. And multiples of eighteen too. Asking a question is also a big favorite in Jewish folklore. Who does not know the joke of this guy enquiring:

  • “Why do you always answer me with a question?” and the response without missing a beat:
  • “Why not?”

So, it feels extremely fitting that today’s blog post would combine both the number 18 as well as the possibility that you would ask me any question you want!

But because I am aware that you might feel a bit shorthanded with such a pirouette (and I checked that the word was in an English dictionary as well, and not only a French word… meaning that I am not entirely trying to cheat you out of a “real” blog post!), I want to redirect you to a past blog post I wrote answering exactly eighteen questions that you might very well have asked me about my being Jewish! So, please, click on this link to read the answers to these eighteen random facts that I revealed about my Jewishness! 

And, of course, if you are still left with burning questions you would like me to answer today, feel free, as always, to leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer the question… with a reply even though it might lead to another set of questions!

 

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!

#BlogElul 5776 #ElulGram – Elul 17: Awaken

yellow_flowersNow that I have become an adult orphan, I often think that I am next “in line” and this is an unsettling feeling.

My children are entering adult age, and I am entering another age too. I feel it is time I become wiser and that some of the unhealthy behaviors I have held to for all those years of rushing through my own adult life have to really go away, otherwise I might end up with not being able to answer the question: who was I? what did I do to be who I was meant to be?

The more I am progressing with this year’s Elul series, the more I feel like more than just last year is being reviewed as I try to see how to apply the theme of the day.

In some ways, life already gave me ample opportunities to work on some of the middot (characteristics or virtues, values by which we “measure” the accomplishments of a life lived by the Torah, the “teachings” literally).

As we are quickly heading towards the season of repentance and forgiveness, I still feel the resistance though to tackle those that are more difficult to deal with, and I want to retreat in a space of sleepiness, where it is easier to ignore the work still to be accomplished. It becomes easier to make excuses then, to argue of how tiring it can be to revisit what is past and cannot be undone, to just let it sit as it is and not even attempt to redefine it so it brings more meaning and leads to more intentional actions in the future.

It is in this movement of back and forth that my soul pushes me, gently but firmly, and won’t let me off the hook until I commit to stand up and make amends to vow to do better. Because I always can.

 

 

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!