Erev Rosh Hashanah 5783
`Padraig O’ Tuama, in his book In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World, writes:
“My favorite poem from David Wagoner is “Lost”:
The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost.
Wherever you are is called Here
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.
The truth of this poem is an old truth. There are the places you wish to go; there are the places you desperately wish you never left; there are the places you imagine you should be; and there is the place called “here”. In the world of Wagoner’s poem, it is the rooted things—trees and bushes—that tell the truth to the person who is lost, the person with legs, and fear, who wishes to be elsewhere. The person must stand still and feel their body still on the ground where they are, in order to learn the wisdom. This is not easy wisdom; it is frightening wisdom. In Irish, there is a phrase, ar eagla na heagla, that translates as “for fear of fear.” It is true that there are some things that we fear but that there is, even deeper, a fear of fear. So we are prevented from being here not only by being frightened of certain places, but by the fear of being frightened of certain places.
“Stand still,” the poet advises. Learn from the things that are already in the place where you wish you were not. Hello to the fear of fear. Hello to here.
Today is the first day of the seventh month. It is on the seventh month- the shabbat month – that we celebrate the birth of space/place/world. Perhaps to remind us to bring shabbat consciousness to our relationship with land/space/place. Not to take from or use, but to affirm the intrinsic holiness of…
On Rosh Hashanah, change happens through returning to place, context, space – metaphorical or actual. Finding oneself and one’s people. Coming home.
Passover change happens through story. Time is renewed in the month of Nisan (Passover).
My friend Ellen recently told me about her grandmother Faye who used to walk around her apartment lifting up and placing down each object: “This is here, and this is here, and this is here…” Also, for my son Ari, everything has a place, everything must be in its place! This is such a gift!
What is your relationship to your places? Your spaces?
What are your spaces?
How has Covid changed your relationship to these places?
For some your home became your office.
For some your car became your quiet place
For some your workplace has became dangerous, great risk – schools, hospitals not safe.
For some, Your computer is where you go for social connection and synagogue.
For me The baseball field has become a sanctuary, a place where everything else falls away.
How are your current spaces contributing to your balance between work and homelife?
What is your relationship with your spaces outside of your home local town or village or hamlet? Its natural areas?
What have you learned about spaces in other parts of the world that have impacted your everyday life, shortages, and viruses, and the physical interconnectedness. How has that changed your relationship to seeing the world as one place?
Does your local place demonstrate/express the values that your family is committed to as reminders of our shared goals as a community?
Is there a center of your local place in which people gather and engage in conversation like an Italian piazza?
If there isn’t really a center…can Hebrew Congregation of Somers be one, a place for dialogue, for coming together across the geographic expanse? What is this sanctuary for? Whom is it for? What can we place here or outside of here to demonstrate our purpose here? Perhaps a peace pole we design together as an HCS community, a banner, a sign…our ancestors placed many objects to show their commitments, their promises, and what was promised to them by God in those places.
Tonight ends the year known as SHMITA – a sabbath year for the land – which allows for spiritual release and sustenance for its people.
The soul of the people and the land intertwine. The people and the land are interconnected and influence each other.
Rav Kook, Shabbat for the Land, Shabbat l’aretz .
The Garden of Hope is a place for gardening not only vegetables but people partnering for peace, justice, change, joy, loving kindness and community. How can we deepen our involvement in the coming year with this holy place? I spoke with the director of the Garden of Hope project today and there are some dynamic plans in the works for more community dialogue.
Hayom harat olam – today is the birthday of ADAMAH earth. We are land. We are Water, elements, adam adamah. today is the birthday of humanity as well.
And because Hebrew and our creation story are both earthly and heavenly, in one story is the truth that we are not ONLY land, elements, someday to be returned to earth… We are also soul.
“Olam” means space, world, eternity. ‘Hayom Harat Olam” therefore means Today. Place is re-infused with eternity, with intrinsic holiness. And we are part of this.
It is so Jewish- at least in the northern hemisphere – that it is in the dying of the trees that we find our true selves, our purpose and our place. We sing our most joyous deep songs in the minor key.
Just yesterday in parshat Nitzavim, we learned that teshuva is accessed where our feet are. Feet rooted, grounded planted deeply in earth.
Not in the heavens
Not across the sea
Not to be accessed by an advanced spiritual genius.
Hinay Makom iti
Right Here! There is a Place with Me. (Exodus 33:21)
When Moses asks to see God’s Glory, God answers with these words, directing Moses to a Place from which to see and know the Divine Presence. That place is here.
In fact the word Makom (place) became a name of God. I hear God saying, “Stand still upon the rock, the foundation of existence, and you will know Me. For that Place is with Me; I am there with you in the place of your stillness, your longing, your love.”
Rabbi Shefa Gold:
“When we wish someone comfort upon the loss of a loved one, we say, “hamakom yinachem” – “May you feel held in your place, comforted by Place.””
Help us to trust the still, small voice within that knows truth; help us these yamim noraim, these days of awe to speak the difficult words that set us and our loved ones free: I love you, I was wrong, I am sorry. Please forgive me.
No need to get it right these next ten days, just try to stay open vulnerable – not knowing our destiny or destination.
All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without a prayer is a soul without a home. (Heschel)
May we find our place, our prayer…our home.