During all these High Holy Days we’ve been swimming in the Ocean, waiting for the wave that will bring us to shore. Some have even dared to re-imagine us as the Aquarium Minyan. In what Ocean are we floating? Toward what shore might we be carried?
In the formative dream of the Jewish people, our great story of liberation, the sea parts and we pass through on dry land. But what if the sea did not part? What if Nachshon and the others walked in right up to their nostrils, right up to their eyeballs, and the sea did not part, and they just kept walking and the bottom dropped away, because that’s life, life is the sea and death is part of life, and there’s no place else to go?
This is the charge of Yom Kippur—to die to our old selves, to surrender to the salt waves of our own tears, our doubts, our regrets, even our triumphs, and be washed up on an unknown shore, on the beach of midbar, a wild place that confounds the senses and renders old ways of seeing, hearing, speaking obsolete—a place in which the deepest kind of ahavah, love—love that is born of yirah, of awe, of fear, of wonder, of trembling—can take root and grow.
Rabbi Chanan Feld, beloved mohel and founder of the Beit Midrash in Berkeley, as you may know, is struggling with dire health challenges right now. Chanan Velvel Simcha ben Bryna—and let us all pray for his refuah shleyma—sent these words to his community on Rosh HaShanah:
over the days to come,
Or the mindful one, mining the moment of now—
Who experiences the true pulse?
Rosh HaShanah is the head of a circle
No beginning, no end
From “briat ha-olam” (the bringing into being of a World)
to the “g’eulah shleymah” (the ultimate redemption), one
Eternity in each present, a year in each day,
the entire universe in each second.
What will be our year to come?
Take a moment….Gaze on a loved one,
Appreciate your community,
Your surroundings, the kedusha (the holiness)
of Yom Tov.
Take a moment and feel my love for each and every one
whose help, tehillim, tefillot, concern,
allowed me to write this. One
whose humbled spirit feels utterly grateful to all.
That’s what our year will be, the eternally
present love of HaShem. That’s the moment of your now and year to come.
These were Rabbi Feld’s words. It’s simple. We are all mortally ill, dying to the selves we were. Our country, our culture is mortally ill. Humbly we enter the Ocean of G~d’s love—ayn banu ma’asim. Nothing we have ever done will save us.
We are—now and always—offered a choice. Will we hold back, squeeze shut our eyes, stop up our ears, try not to breathe, hunker down, dig in our heels, and wait for Death, the armies of narrowness, to overtake us? Or will we wade in together, hearts joined in holy purpose, past the point of no return, and die into the waters of Love, allowing ourselves to be carried to the unknown shore where, this year more urgently than ever, we will be instructed in how to best care for ourselves by caring for others?
“Simeni kha-khotam al libekha, ka-khotam al-z’ro-ekha, Place Me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal upon your arm”—let all your thoughts and acts flow from your intimate relationship with the Eternal—“ki azah kha-mavet ahavah, for love is as strong as death.” (Shir Ha-Shirim 8:6)
Please rise, in body or in spirit, and join me in reading this declaration of kavannah, of intention, this prayer for the year coming. You’ll find it in your prayer supplement, number 2.
We who stand at the Precipice demand
that Peace fill the hearts of those who love the Divine,
for the purpose of opening to the Waters of Life.
We who stand at the Precipice demand
that the Waters of Life
flow through the ending of Time,
for the purpose of bringing us Home.
(Soul Memory process channeled by Ellen Kaufman Dosick)