#blogelul : return

the month of elul begins once again

u-turn

return

Hosea 14:2:
שׁוּבָה, יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: כִּי כָשַׁלְתָּ, בַּעֲו‍ֹנֶךָ.

I return to this writ­ing, that I have not vis­it­ed since ear­ly March, short­ly before Pesach.

I have been many places, but now is the time for return.

As she did in antic­i­pa­tion of Pesach, my col­league of unimag­in­able strength, Phyl­lis Som­mer encour­ages us now to spend the next month with: #Blo­gElul and #Elul­Gram 2012.

blog elul

#blo­gelul

where have I been?

In order to return, I need to be aware of where I have been. I need to know that I have not been in the same place all this time. Of course, these “places” are of many kinds, among them geo­graph­i­cal and emo­tion­al. While I don’t think I ever lost it, I know that my mind has wan­dered, even if I have been in the same cor­ner where I do most of my work.

And for many months this year, my work actu­al­ly con­sist­ed of going and return­ing… to and from Brook­lyn. Those goings and com­ings were thor­ough­ly report­ed using Foursquare when I became the “may­or” of most of the play­grounds with­in a half-mile radius of Amiel’s home.

together in the park

togeth­er in the park

more than goings and comings

To and from “work” at “Camp Saba” (or as one friend put it: “Camp Saba­ba” (סבבה or صَبَابَة)) was only one of my “returns”. While tomorrow’s sub­ject is “inven­to­ry”, as I return I am aware of what I have passed along the way. I some­times think I should keep a record of all that I’ve lis­tened to, watched and read, as does “The Goy” in the nov­el of that name by Mark Har­ris; where has my think­ing trav­eled via the pages of a news­pa­per, a mag­a­zine, deep inside the com­put­er or “smart­phone” screen, or even a book, but I don’t do that. I know that the cook­ie crumbs of my brows­er have been spread far and wide. My “read it lat­er” list grows faster than it dimin­ish­es. If there is some­thing of greater worth, I will share it with Deb­bie, Libbe and/or Jay, Avi­gail, Noam and Rachel, and some­times my col­leagues at the CCAR (either here, via Twit­ter, or on Face­book). Traces of all that can be found, as I return, by check­ing my email and oth­er devel­op­ing tools.

return to what?

for many years, at the begin­ning of Rosh haShan­nah I would share these words of R. Mor­ris Licht­en­stein with my con­gre­ga­tion [empha­sis mine]:

The old year is soon to pass. One more link shall have been added to the chain of our expe­ri­ence, anoth­er mile­stone in the road to our goal shall have been passed. We shall have risen one lev­el high­er, per­haps, in our aspi­ra­tion to real­ize the val­ues of life. Astronomers count the com­ple­tion of a year as a great event in nature; the earth has made a com­plete cir­cuit around the sun. But when the year ends the earth returns to its orig­i­nal place. It would be no less than a calami­ty, if we should find our­selves at the end of the year on the very same spot where we began. We must advance with the flow of time, we must grow; we must not fal­ter, but leave a trail of progress upon the fleet­ing days. To the shrub a year means but an addi­tion­al leaf, to the vine it means only a new clus­ter, to the tree a new ring of bark, to the stream it means a deep­er flow. But to us a year may mean new knowl­edge mas­tered, new thoughts brought into action, new feel­ings set in motion, a clear­er under­stand­ing of God, a clos­er com­mu­nion with God. If this is what this New Year shall mean to us all, then shall we all have indeed a year of blessed­ness and ful­fill­ment.

like spring in autumn

In 1997 I shared a sto­ry with my con­gre­ga­tion Etz Chaim of Ramona (CA) and sug­gest­ed that our lives are like a spring.

…put your­self at the begin­ning of the wire coil. That’s The Begin­ning, you know, like ‘In the begin­ning…’? Hold that spring so that you look into it as if it were a cylin­der. Notice how the spring keeps wind­ing around and returns to the same posi­tion it was. Yet, if you look at it from the side you see a pro­gres­sion. While you were busy star­ing at the pat­terns the oth­er day, I went to Home Depot and looked for springs. Some are real­ly com­plex Sor­ry, I couldn’t find the one I want­ed. That one would have had a cone shape with the nar­row end as the begin­ning and as time pro­gressed the cir­cle would get wider as the posi­tion swung around to the ‘start­ing’ point.

spring

our lives are like a con­i­cal spring

I remem­ber some­thing about one of the Explor­er mod­ules (I think it was), that made a bunch of cir­cles around the earth and made ever larg­er spi­rals until it sort of got hurled out of the solar sys­tem where it’s still trav­el­ing. That’s us, we’re still on one of those spi­rals, still reach­ing out, fur­ther. We’re con­nect­ed to the Very Begin­ning. And our act­ing in a Jew­ish con­text gives us guide posts, and mark­ers and makes us part of an expe­ri­ence (maybe even an exper­i­ment) that has been going on for thou­sands of years. I don’t know about you, but that sure gives con­se­quence to my liv­ing.

(re-)turn and arise!

The next to last verse of the Book of Lamen­ta­tions (5:21) reads:

השׁיבנו יהוה אליך ונשוב (וְנשׁובה), חדשׁ ימינו כקדם.

It is com­mon­ly trans­lat­ed:
Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

I have long had dif­fi­cul­ty with this verse. I won­der why we would want to return to what had been and not move for­ward to some­thing yet to be. As you can see in the left side­bar, i.e. some say­ings of ר‘משבצונה“ל
השיבהו ח‘ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כעוד לא היו.
I have changed the text to align more close­ly to my under­stand­ing that we should not, can­not, return com­plete­ly to the point from where we began. Each return should raise us up to a new lev­el. When I think of (a)rising, I think of this and

At the 2008 Israel Day Parade in New York some­one had a dif­fer­ent thought in mind as they com­bined the ideas of arise and return. I find it intrigu­ing that the but­ton says sim­ply “Amer­i­cans” not “Amer­i­can Jews”. In either case, I do not wear the but­ton.

arise return

arise! amer­i­cans return to zion

Date: 2008
Size: 5.71
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text ARISE!
Amer­i­cans
Return To Zion
www.KUMAH.org

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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