Elul Week 4

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, September 15, 2023 / 29 Elul 5783

Summary: As the month of Elul ends, the focus of these Oasis Songs has been on High Holiday themes. This year, I have been grateful to partner with Debbie Plawner, who has been creating a deck of cards inspired by, in her words, “the infinite light of Torah.” Her Elul cards supported the spiritual preparation we undertook in the month leading up to our Yamim Noraim, our Days of Awe. Visit www.oracolor.com to learn more.

As we prepare to usher in the new year this evening, this last reflection is spurred both by the header card, above, as well as my current illness.

Reading Time: Four and a half minutes

Nurturing the Light of Love

My dear friends and congregants,

As many of you know, I am currently contending with Bell’s Palsy, an idiopathic form of facial paralysis and associated symptoms. Although its causes remain largely unknown, multiple generations of my family have succumbed to a bout with it. Apparently, this is now my turn.

Along with a host of medical professionals, I have done everything in my power to hasten my recovery in the hope that I would be able to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with you. That sadly will not happen. It is still my fervent desire to be with you on Yom Kippur, but only the intervening aseret yamei teshuvah, the ten days of repentance, will make clear whether that is possible. This is a good reminder that in life, we hope for the best, then work with what we get.

Despite this, I consider myself fortunate. So many people have far more challenging illnesses and issues. As our new year begins, I want to send you blessings for strength as you navigate the bumpy spots on your own path. At the same time, grounding our gratitude in the old Jewish statement that “it could be worse” is not usually a sound approach. The truth is that all of us have periods of struggle; even in the midst of those issues, a broad perspective allows us to realize that at any moment, our life is rich with blessings. Our illnesses and heartbreaks are only one piece of the story of our lives. They too are passing phenomena.

Perhaps for that reason, the common belief that “health is the most important thing” has never fully resonated with me. Health is undoubtedly one of our greatest gifts, yet few of us make it through life without several health challenges. Illness is as much a part of life as flowers are part of springtime. All of us know that life is a package deal. Rather, it is the support of our friends and loved ones, as well as our faith, that seem most valuable, for these can help us weather the inevitable challenges each of us must face. They sweeten the bitter, giving us strength to carry on, while their presence reminds us that none of us are truly alone, even when we feel most isolated.

This is encouraging news, for we each have tremendous capacity to strengthen our relationships and our faith—these are areas of life over which we have remarkable control. All that this requires is our commitment to stay connected to the most loving parts of ourselves. It is the power of love that allows us to forgive ourselves and others: Our mission is to seek the best for all, while experiencing the profound ways we are connected to the larger flow of life. More than anything, teshuvah is the Jewish expression of this love. We are not meant to beat ourselves up over our failings; we are meant to evaluate with a level head where we fell short of the mark so that we can endeavor to live more lovingly.

As the new year begins, may you and yours indeed enjoy the blessings of health and happiness; may you also find the courage to be your most loving self, regardless of what life throws at you.

!כתיבה וחתימה טובה

May we each be signed and sealed for goodness in the Book of Life,

Rav D

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