To 5784, a New Year
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.
I read these words over and over,
The dance between beauty and sadness,
Between wonder and grief—
We don’t get one without the other.
As I attempt to mask my sadness,
(which doesn’t, by the way, work),
As I attempt to
Run from my anxiety,
(good luck with that),
I miss the beauty,
The grace that
We get all of it.
Allowing the sadness,
To be felt,
Opens the doors
To all of it.
The Jewish High Holidays came and went.
I am a full and active participant in Couch-Temple.
Through the magic of streaming, I am a whole-heartedly present congregant in Central Synagogue, New York City’s remarkable Reform Jewish Community.
Maybe my participation is more whole-heartedly than in my actual Temple-Temple days.
Sweatpants are mandatory attire.
Pajamas are optional.
At any moment in the proceedings.
Foot rubs might happen.
Notes can be taken
Blankies for all!
No offense taken by God
Who only wants
Our full and comfortable
It’s all good
In the Land of Couch-Temple.
As always, the themes of the holidays Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur deeply touch me.
Forgiveness and redemption,
Being rewritten in the Book of Life.
Through “redemption, prayer, and charity”, we are inscribed again in the Book of Life.
It’s a good deal, folks.
It’s a deal.
Check out these definitions:
an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake
Am earnest hope, wish or request; asking for help, or expressing thanks
Voluntarily giving of help to where it is needed
(I think of seva, selfless service)
And as we lean in the direction of redemption, of prayer, of charity, we are rewritten in the Book of Life, we are forgiven, our blunders from the past year are erased.
We try again.
It’s a good deal.
Yom Kippur always reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s remarkable song, “Who by Fire?”
It’s his version of the Hebrew prayer “Unetanneh Tokef”, chanted on Yom Kippur.
This ancient prayer describes God reviewing the Book of Life and deciding the fate of every soul for the year to come – who will live, who will die and how.
Leonard’s line: “And who shall I say is calling?” lands for me as his wondering, his questioning, his puzzling about the Bigger Picture. I am inspired that such a spiritual character as Cohen was so able to share, not just the sanctity he felt for life, but his doubts and his fears, too.
Here is an exquisite version from Leonard’s Live in London tour, from 2008:
Who By Fire?
May we practice
In the moment.
In that moment,
May we practice kindness.
May we return,
Again and again,
To the dance,
To the practice