Elul Reflections: 16 Elul 5777

Ropes and Ladders

Not long ago, a very distant memory came rushing back to mind. I was back in Belvoir primary school in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

At Belvoir and throughout my education, sport came easily to me and I enjoyed it. But on gymnastics day I was hopeless, lacking in confidence and frightened, for in the school’s gymnasium resided equipment that by today’s safety standards would almost certainly fail to meet the code. On one side stood a ladder that reached to the ceiling with rungs spaced wide-apart, requiring strength and no small amount of courage to scale it. On the other side were thick ropes, marine-grade and rough; ropes hanging down from the joist at the top of the vaulted gymnasium, ropes that could rip through hands better suited for piano practice than basic training. The ropes, like the ladder were terrifying to the 10-year-old me. Students were made to shimmy up the rope, higher and higher, hand over foot, until that one terrifying and triumphant moment when you were required to extend one hand upwards to tap the ceiling beam before returning to earth.

On reflection, I realise now that these ropes and ladders were much more than a physical challenge. They were precursors of the many tests we must face throughout life: ill health, loneliness, uncertain faith or fear for the future. Have we not all ropes and ladders that we must face and attempt to surmount?

Surely we do. And how do we meet these challenges? By embedding ourselves within supportive faith communities like those throughout our UPJ region that encourage us to climb, have courage and reach towards God, our Parent and Sovereign, who at this season and throughout our lives, sustains us when our confidence in ourselves abandons us.

From my family to yours,
L’shanah tovah u’metukah.

Rabbi Gary J Robuck

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