The High Holy Day season is upon us: Summer has ended, the school year has arrived. The Jewish calendar invites us to begin this year with intention. This is the season of cheshbon hanefesh, the accounting of the soul.
Often, cheshbon hanefesh can feel intimidating: who really wants to take a deep look at how to change? Honest introspection is hard work! Plus, the whole world is filled with opportunities to explore how we “don’t measure up,” and with reminders of the pressing work that we must do to build a more equitable country.
Yet, in order to effectively move forward, we have the collective opportunity to look at where we have been. Though this guide is meant for individual use, we can take comfort knowing that we are held by the Jewish calendar, by years of accumulated Jewish wisdom, and by the knowledge that somewhere - both here in Westchester, and throughout the world – there are other members of our community looking inward, too.
How do I use this guide?
Great question !
Offering #2: Healing in the month of Elul
Consider: One of the focal pieces of the High Holy Day Liturgy is Avinu Malkeinu, in which we collectively pray for compassion. Leonard Cohen makes a similar request in his song, Come Healing:
“Behold the gates of mercy in arbitrary space
And none of us deserving of cruelty or the grace
O, solitude of longing where love has been confined
Come healing of the body, come healing of the mind.
O, see the darkness yielding that tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason, come healing of the heart.
O, troubledness concealing an undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching to the broken heart above...”
Reflect: Though Leonard Cohen’s words are beautiful, the actual task of wrapping our heads and hearts around the healing we need in our own lives is often elusive. Consider that healing can come from the offering of loving presence. Simply noticing and naming the parts of our lives that need healing is a significant step toward healing.
As you consider what healing you might need this year - healing of body, heart, mind, reason, recall that healing, mercy, and love are abundant.
Act: As you contemplate the spaces where healing would be welcome in your life, check in with your body.
Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Place your feet flat on the ground.
Take another breath.
Where is your body holding tension? Offer that space another breath.
Where does your body seek openness or flexibility? Take another breath.
Repeat a few times, if you’d like.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
If the idea of searching for the spaces in your life that need healing, doesn’t resonate, perhaps you might think more broadly.
Where does our world need healing? What issues concern you nationally or locally?
Who might you connect with in order to bring forth healing? Can you pick up the phone or write a letter?
To expand this activity and explore with your family, use these prompts to begin a conversation:
Where does our household need some healing?
Are there parts of our daily routine that have gone a little off course?
Are there new habits we might want to start together, or maybe just one?
Let us know how this works for you by leaving a comment or sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org !
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Rabbi Bethie Miller writes periodic reflections on the state of our world and the Jewish project. She also writes about creative ideas for combining Jewish wisdom with our modern lives. Here are links to previous ones:
Looking for Hope at the Seder Table (4/13/22)
Happy 9th Night of Hanukkah (12/6/21)
The Healing is in the Return (8/18/21)
Time to Pray (11/2/20)
The Secret to At-One-Ment (9/27/20)
Taking a Sharp Left Turn into 5781 (9/15/20)
Waking Up One Day At Time (8/31/20)
This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared (8/18/20)
The Day is Short (6/16/20)
Spiritual Mountain Climbing Without Leaving the House (5/14/20)
Shabbat Peace, Love & Light (3/20/20)
Sources of Connection as We Practice Social Distancing (3/16/20)
Purim Has Never Felt So Resonant (3/9/20)
The Miracle of Chanukah (12/20/19)
To Be Jewish is To Be Grateful (12/2/19)
What I Learned During the High Holy Days (10/16/19)
New Year, New Project - Welcome to Sanctuary (10/3/19)