On Turning: Our Relationship with Ourselves, Others, & “Spirit”

As many of you know, Fall is my favorite time of year. The changes in the leaves, the shift in the weather, and savoring the last of warm weather days before Winter are all part of this favorite season for me. Fall is also my favorite time of year because of the Jewish New Year—- the traditional foods, the concept of atonement, the lovely music that is plaintive and inspiring, the blowing of the shofar*—-because it signals a new beginning and I love new beginnings.

*Below is a photo of a shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown during the Jewish New Year. “The shofar blast marks the beginning of a period of amnesty which is known as The Ten Days of Repentance. Repentance is based on the fact that since humanity has been given free-will, and our actions are not pre-determined, we must take responsiblity for our actions. The ability to repent teaches us that our future is not bound by our past and that by changing our behaviour we have the ability to change our past.” (Source: www.ohr.edu)

Tonight we attended the special pre-Rosh Hoshana service called Slichot (slee-khote), which means “I’m sorry” in Hebrew. This is the time of year when we examine our  mistakes of the past year and work on correcting them, something like New Year’s resolutions on January 1st, only a little more serious. We can also write letters or call people we may have offended and say, “I’m sorry.” The 10 Days of Awe/Repentance start with Rosh Hoshana, but tonight’s service was a “warm-up” to these special 10 days.

Without getting involved in religion, per se, I would like to print the meditation we read tonight because I think it applies to almost everyone, regardless of  his/her religion, since it’s about out relationship to ourselves, others we come in contact with, and whatever supreme being or spiritual practice we may believe in. (I use the words Higher Power.)

In order not to offend anyone, I have left out any mention of G-d, and where I skipped words I filled in with a bridge not in italics. I also typed it more like a poem, because I think it reads like a non-rhyming poem. The photos are my addition.

On Turning

Note: The words in italics are from The New Union Prayer Book for the Days of Awe, p. 372. The meditation is actually from the section of the book on Yom Kippor, but I think it was fitting that we read it tonight, since Slichot is part of this special month in the Jewish calendar and signals the start of making changes.

Now is the time for turning.
The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red to orange.
The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more to the South.
The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for winter.
For leaves, birds, and animals turning comes instinctively.

But for us, turning does not come so easily.
It takes an act of will for us to make a turn.
It means breaking with old habits.
It means admitting that we have been wrong; and this is never easy.
It means losing face; it means starting all over again; and this is always painful.
It means saying: I am sorry.
It means recognizing that we have the ability to change.

These things are terribly hard to do.
But unless we turn, we will be trapped for ever in yesterday’s ways.

We must learn to turn—
from callousness to sensitivity,
from hostility to love,
from pettiness to purpose,
from envy to contentment,
from carelessness to discipline,
from fear to faith.

Turn around…
Revive our lives, as at the beginning.
And turn us toward each other….
For in isolation there is no life.

P.S. Get a jump on the traditional New Year’s Resolutions and up the ante by contacting people you have forgotten to call or write and family members that you have not contacted in awhile. Call to say hello and to share your life with theirs.

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