This time of year I am a glutton for fresh fruit. I try to eat my year's worth in the month of August. This week I felt we had finally arrived as I sliced fresh peaches into my granola, froze peaches 'n' cream popsicles, and canned peaches with maple bourbon syrup. By every measure I am grateful to the sun's generosity, as I fill my fridge (and my belly) with a bumper crop of peaches.
The Talmud teaches us that the months of Tammuz, Av, and Elul are the season of fruit ripening (B.T. Pesachim 94b). Rabbi Jill Hammer explains, "The harvest may contain loss, yet it also contains peaches, plums, and cherries...In this season, according to legend, the sun makes a special effort to travel over places where humans live to ripen the harvest" (The Jewish Book of Days, 379). In the early summer days of Tammuz, the fruit was not quite ready. Now in the latter half of Av, we savor the saturated sweetness of summer fruit and take in the spirit of blessing.
This week's parsha, Re'eh, speaks of precisely this blessing from the land. Its words an invitation to consider the blessings in our own lives as we wind our way through the book of Deuteronomy and approach the end of another spiritual cycle. Hammer continues, "The fruit of the spirit always prepares us for another journey. At this season we not only devour the fruit but begin to notice the seeds, the hints of the future that will guide us towards the new year."
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim, the Shabbat that blesses the arrival of the new moon of Elul next Thursday and Friday. The hints of the new year are quite literally just around the corner. Beneath the heat of the sun, we ask for renewal, for long life, for sustenance; a life in which our heart's longings are fulfilled. And we are called to ask, What is mine to harvest? What growth can I honor? What is mine to let go of with the waning moon?
In her poem "Coming Up on September," Marge Piercy writes:
"Now is the time to let the mind
search backwards like the raven loosed
to see what can feed us. Now,
the time to cast the mind forward
to chart an aerial map of the months."
May the path of the sun inspire us to chart our own with integrity and discernment, free from shame and full of awe.
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.