I continue to feel the effervescent joy and vibrations of Rosh Hashanah. So full of gratitude for everyone who made that possible, which is everyone!
Yesterday I sent a draft of my Kol Nidre sermon to a friend to edit. When I opened it a few hours later I received a notification I never noticed before. There was a little blue box that read "Wow! This document has changed a lot. Do you want to reload?" I laughed and thought to myself, why yes I do! Here we are in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I keep wanting to look inside my soul and say, "Wow! This person has changed a lot." Alas, it is easier to reload a google doc than transform our well-worn habits.
For this reason, I draw most of my inspiration for transformation from the natural world. This past July I spent a few weeks swimming in the rivers of New England. At each new swimming hole, one of the things I learned to look for was signs of a healthy water supply. I learned that tracking the presence of macro-invertebrates (dragonflies, crayfish, stoneflies, etc.) is used in New Zealand to measure the water quality of fresh water.
One morning we arrived to the bend of a beautiful river. As we were hopping from rock to rock, we noticed the rocks were covered in what looked like dried skeletons of prehistoric lizards. I later came to learn they were in fact the exuvius skeletons of nymph stoneflies. In biology, exuviae are the remains of an exoskeleton and related structures that are left after ecdysozoans (including insects, crustaceans, and arachnids) have molted. This is true of all animals that grow by ecdysis, molting their exoskeleton. In fact, stoneflies can molt as many as 20-30 times in their lifetimes.
On that summer day, as I ventured upstream with my kids, we hopped from rock to rock. We came across a nymph stonefly that was actually mid-molt. We sat and watched as the shell cracked down the center spine, its body was in the process of breaking through, preparing to let go and emerge anew. It seemed simultaneously possible and impossible. Kind of like this moment. We too are called to molt and transform, hopefully hundreds of times in our lifetimes. And this moment in the calendar, we are trying to break through.
May we each have the courage to carve out some time before Yom Kippur for reflection, forgiveness, and letting go.
Gmar Hatimah Tova and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ari Lev
P.S. Here is a copy of my sermon from the first day of Rosh Hashanah. It was an honor to share these words of Torah with our extended community. We are also working to get lay leaders vorts and Divrei Torah on our website as well.
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek Synagogue through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.