I am accustomed to writing these long and flowing posts, and, I think, that if I’m going to write regularly I must change my approach because my life has become so saturated with commitments largely due to graduate school. With that said, I’m going to try a different approach. I really miss writing and interacting with other people through it. So, here goes…
Before the High Holidays were upon us (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth), I was very diligently trying to be intentional about asking what needed extra attention in my life or approach to life and relationships. I don’t want this idea to be lost on anyone due to my in-group jargon. Let me explain. Elul is the name of the last month in the Jewish calendar (which is lunar) which precedes the beginning of the new year. The Jewish New Year is marked by Rosh Hashanah which literally means “head of the year”. Tishrei is the name of the first month of the year. Rosh Hashanah falls on 1 Tishrei, and this marks the beginning of the Days of Awe which are essentially ten days of introspection, contemplation, and thinking again about the past year that culminate in the Day of Atonement–Yom Kippur. This is a tremendous oversimplification, but I wanted to give you the gist. These days can be extraordinarily sacred.
It is what happens in Elul, the month prior, that often informs one’s experiences during the Days of Awe. Once again, this will be an oversimplification of a profound concept. It is said that during Elul, “the king is in the field.” Now, what does this mean? There are many interpretations of this statement, but, going with the plain meaning, I will interpret it as, “G-d, as one understands G-d, is accessible in a deeply personal and more intimate way during Elul.” One doesn’t even have to be a theist to appreciate the idea that there are times when it feels easier to intuit or discern formerly hidden or buried concepts, emotions, or gossamer-like truths too hard to pin down. Why would Elul provide greater closeness or intimacy with G-d as we understand G-d or an opportunity for increased awareness? I suspect that the answer is, in part, found in the purpose of the month. We cannot experience and implement effective change when we believe harmful things about ourselves, others, and our present and future. And, this is what the Days of Awe are about–a rectification of what is not working in our lives in order to bring about healthy change and healing. Elul is supposed to be a time when the “veil” is thin. The veil to what? That likely depends upon you.
During Elul, I had two dreams. I woke up one morning having just seen the word “NOURISH” flashing before my eyes as if it were surrounded by Broadway lights.
I immediately felt unsettled and almost accused as if someone were pointing their finger at me–“Nourish!” Then, the intrusive thoughts began. The Inner Critic (or Parent) appeared who is always more than happy to comment on everything I think, say, and do, or don’t think, say, and do. Anyone else familiar with this dynamic?
The next night I had a similar dream except I saw something else on the Broadway marquee sign:
How interesting. ‘Mi Sheberach’ literally means in Hebrew “The One who blessed”. More than that:
“One of the central Jewish prayers for those who are ill or recovering from illness or accidents is the Mi Sheberach. The name is taken from its first two Hebrew words–Mi Sheberach (The One who blessed). With a holistic view of humankind, it prays for physical cure as well as spiritual healing, asking for blessing, compassion, restoration, and strength, within the community of others facing illness as well as all Jews, all human beings. Increasingly, the Mi Sheberach has moved into other settings and other junctures. Chaplains, doctors, nurses, and social workers are now joining patients and those close to them in saying the Mi Sheberach at various junctures—before and after surgery, during treatments, upon admission or discharge, on the anniversary of diagnosis, and more.” (My Jewish Learning)
If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you know I’ll have almost too much to say about this, but I want to try to be brief. The first thing I want to say is that I had to sit with the idea of “Nourish” for a while before I understood the plain meaning as it really applied–before I heard the message intended. And, this is what I want to share with you. The word “nourish” has a few definitions: 1. to nurture or rear 2. promote the growth of 3. furnish or sustain with nutriment (i.e. feed) 4. maintain or support 5. keep (a feeling or belief) in one’s mind, typically for a long time. Two definitions stood out to me right away, and I asked follow-up questions: What am I maintaining and supporting in terms of what I believe about myself and others, and what feelings and/or beliefs have I been keeping in my mind that I really need to let go?
What does a nourishing belief and thought look like? What do they sound like? What do they feel like?
When we eat a highly nourishing meal that promotes our health and well-being, how do we feel afterwards? What does physical well-being feel like after we’ve experienced physical nourishment? What if we translated the idea of nourishment to our words, attitudes, and nonverbal communication? How would we feel if we spoke to ourselves and others using “nourishing” language? What is “nourishing” language? These are the thoughts I had after my first dream during Elul, and I don’t have any obvious or clear answers. I do have a notion of what the opposite of “nourishing” means. What might it mean to you?
I felt humbled and hopeful after my second dream. We are living in historic times awash in inordinate suffering, loss, uncertainties, turmoil, and, frankly, necessary and yet profound upheavals which are giving rise to fear, increasing polarity, and violence. The possibility of healing seems like an impossibility and yet we must keep going because it is the best in us that perseveres through the worst of times in order to nurture and support the changes that are long overdue–in ourselves, in others, and in our spheres of influence however small or large they may be. In my mind and heart, I was so deeply encouraged by my second dream because it felt like an intentional calling out from The Deep. Healing. This requires an intentional agreement from all of us. Not only to enter into a healing stance for ourselves but for others. Our cities. Our societies at large. Our countries.
Never give up. Keep going.
May the One who blessed our ancestors —
bless and heal the one who is ill:
May the Holy Blessed One
overflow with compassion upon (pronoun of choice),
to restore (pronoun of choice),
to heal (pronoun of choice)
to strengthen (pronoun of choice),
to enliven (pronoun of choice).
The One will send (pronoun of choice), speedily,
a complete healing —
healing of the soul and healing of the body —
along with all the ill,
among all humankind,
and let us all say: Amen!