the month of elul begins once again
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.
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.
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
…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.
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.
Return To Zion
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.