After months of preparation, weeks of writing, and days of singing, what I am left with in my own heart is a fullness for which I am very grateful. And the echo of the closing words of the Unetane Tokef, which read:
We are fragile as pottery, so easily shattered,
like the grass that withers, like the flower that fades,
like the fleeting shadow, like the vanishing cloud,
like the wind that rushes by, like the scattered dust,
like the dream that flies away.
The liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is designed to draw us close to our own vulnerability. To remind us how precious, precarious, and impermanent it all is.
Some of us take comfort in imagining that we are the clay and the Holy One is our potter. To imagine there is a Source who shapes our destiny. But all of us know that our agency is primarily limited to the here and now. To how we live our days. Not how many days we live.
It is easier to be flush with this truth through poetry. Where there is more breath and something left unspoken. Humor and levity also help a lot.
In her poem, "Zucchini Shofar", Sarah Lindsay writes:
No animals were harmed in the making of this joyful noise:
A thick, twisted stem from the garden
is the wedding couple's ceremonial ram's horn.
Its substance will not survive one thousand years,
nor will the garden, which is today their temple,
nor will their names, nor their union now announced
with ritual blasts upon the zucchini shofar.
Shall we measure blessings by their duration?
Through the narrow organic channel fuzzily come
the prescribed sustained notes, short notes, rests.
All that rhythm requires. Among their talents,
the newlyweds excel at making
and serving mustard-green soup and molasses cookies,
and taking nieces and nephews for walks in the woods.
The gardener dyes eggs with onion skins,
wraps presents, tells stories, finds the best seashells;
his friends adore his paper-cuttings--
"Nothing I do will last," he says.
What is this future approval we think we need;
who made passing time our judge?
Do we want butter that endures for ages,
or butter that melts into homemade cornbread now?
Even as we imagine ourselves passing before the judge, we are invited to ask ourselves who made passing time our judge. Nothing we do will last.
For a moment, maybe even just a breath, we come flush with this truth.
We are fragile as pottery, so easily shattered.
Like a zucchini shofar, we too will become compost.
May our practice of tefilah, teshuvah, and tzedakah
allow us to melt like butter
as we journey through the Days Between.
תָחֵל שָנָה ובִרכותֶיהָ
Let the year and her blessings begin!
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.