I am not sure how many of you know that I think Teshuva is the best thing about Judaism. The sheer brilliance of asserting that transformation and healing are not only possible, but they are an essential source of holiness. Most of the time when we talk about Teshuva, we list the qualities we want to turn away from; the habits we want to quit and the patterns we want to shift. Now some might think this is the work of turning away. But in my experience, real transformation is possible when we turn towards ourselves and our loved ones. This can feel abstract and hard to grasp. And so towards this end, I offer you one of my personal practices for engaging with this work, in the form of a writing prompt from my dear friend Rabbi Jordan Braunig:
"I encourage you to write down names of people you need to be in touch with before this month comes to an end. The list can begin with the people who you owe an apology. Perhaps, there are folks you want to express gratitude towards. Or, others that you’d like to reconnect with before the holidays. Maybe you want to forgive someone or offer an overdue congratulations or tell someone that you miss their presence in your life or that you’re holding on to some hurt.
Once you’ve done that, I encourage you to move names onto your calendar. Will a text suffice? An email? Would it be better to speak on the phone? In person? When and how will you carve out the time to turn inward and from that place turn towards wholeness?
Looking forward to being together tonight at 6:30 pm, with leadership from three trans community members (other than myself!) in honor of the Philly Trans Health Conference.
Happy Elul and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Ari Lev
P.S. There are so many way to participate in High Holiday services at Kol Tzedek. And it literally takes the community to make it happen. In addition to volunteering, please email me if you want an honor like opening the ark or carrying the Torah or having an Aliyah or sharing a reading. There are easily 100 honors to be had. One for every blast of shofar perhaps. We all deserve to be honored for our work within and beyond the KT Community.
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.