On Rosh Hashanah, through shofar blasts and boundless song, we will once again coronate God, in all her majesty. Every year, as we plead with Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King, Our Sovereign, Our Source, I struggle to find my way into this metaphor. You all have been patient with my struggles and shared of your own. In a recent article, Rabbanit Leah Sarna reminded me this is also a daily practice. Our traditional daily blessings begin by describing God as "King of the Universe" (Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam…). This is the way of the Jewish calendar. Daily themes that appear in our weekday liturgy also find unique dates in the calendar for further exploration and renewal.
Last year at this time I wrote to you, sharing a famous kabbalistic image about the month of Elul through which it is understood that "The King is in the Field." The Jewish mystics believed that the Holy Blessed One resides on high, whether physically above us or spiritually beyond us. But in the month of Elul, the Holy One dwells among us, in our midst.
About this text, my teacher Rabbi Art Green shared that the metaphor above is so much more real after his recent trip to Ukraine. He wrote, "It takes many hours BY CAR, with those still terrible roads, to get from one shtetl to another. With horse and carriage, it must have taken days or weeks! Imagine the Czar visiting Ukraine, coming all the way from St. Petersburg or Moscow. Along the way, he would need to stay at lots of small country inns, many of which were owned by Jews. Imagine that! Of course the Czar is utterly unapproachable. But while making up his room, or serving him his drink, with the appointments secretary not around, you might be able to ask him for something!" How much more so the Holy One.
In the words of the prophet, "Seek the Holy One while She can be found, Call to Her while She is near" (Isaiah 55:6). To which Rabbi Green asks, "But why is God 'closer' in this season? Because our hearts are - hopefully! - more open. That's what it's all about."
In my experience, the many metaphors of Rosh Hashanah connect us more deeply to the power of the universe to make and take life. This shabbat, may we have the courage to open ourselves the possibility of connection that is more palpable in this season of reflection and renewal.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.