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Rabbi Allison RH Conyer Erev RH 2021

Looking Out the Window

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5782
Rabbi Allison RH Conyer
Etz Chayim, Bentleigh VIC

 

Looking out the window,

I saw sunshine and rain.

Making patterns on the pavement,

like an Aboriginal dot painting,

Then disappearing, like a Buddha board,

Creating a vision with water then watching it vanish before our eyes

– the epitome of non-permanence.

Looking out the window,

            I saw silence.

Empty streets

Without people chatting, embracing, or connecting

Without rushing cars, traffic, or frustration.

Looking out the window,

I saw a toddler

Looking up at masked faces

Hidden from the world

I saw a young mother

Pushing her infant in a pram

Life goes on.

Looking out the window,

            I saw flowers.

                        Slowly dying and blowing away,

                        Forming buds and beginning to bloom.

            I saw a spider and a bee.

                        Each fighting for survival

The spider, to eat its fill

and the bee to be free.

Looking out the window,

            I saw me.

                        My reflection in shadowed glass

                                    Darkened, distorted, broken.

                        Yet, the pieces of myself still recognizable.

                        I am still here.

Looking out the window,

            I feel empty and alone.

                        Confused, powerless, and helpless.

            I feel warm and blessed.

                        Fortunate, loved, and healthy.

Looking out the window,

I realise          I am human,

Whole and imperfect,

Shattered and strong.

            I realise I am Abraham.

                        Tested

And asked to give up that which is most precious to me,

  • Those whom I love.

I realise I am Isaac.

            Trusting

And praying that my sacrifice will be worth it

  • For the greater good.

This year, I was inspired by different types of literature and the idea that each of us are the author of our own stories. Just as an author begins with a blank piece of paper, or a blank screen, and gives life to an idea through their words, fueled by their imaginations that are shaped by their life experiences, so too, do we, on Rosh Hashanah, look out upon the upcoming year as a blank page, awaiting our imprint for the stories that are to come.

Authors tell their stories through the imagery, thought, and emotions their words evoke. Each word, each phrase, is carefully chosen to reflect the sentiment or vision within their hearts and minds. Every story can be told from different perspectives; each one true, yet missing something. Similarly, our life stories reflect both a snapshot of where we find ourselves in any given moment, as well as what we choose to remember about a time that has passed. We can remember that time in different ways, generating different stories, each shaping how we understand our life stories.

During the Yamim Noraim– the High Holy Days, G-d is referred to as “Author of Life and Death”, as, we are told, that G-d writes down our fate in a book; yet, weare the ones who are the authors of our stories that determine our Divine fate. We choose the perspective by which we view our lives, thus creating not one, but multiple stories. 

Sometimes, we can see the simple poetry within a given situation and how our lives are a metaphor for something deeper. Other times, we dissect our story trying to understand every detail of what has occurred, infusing meaning into every aspect to gain deeper insight into our life stories. Other times, our stories are like a “choose-your-own-adventure” book, never knowing where we’re going, enjoying the thrill and surprise of where we may end up. Sometimes, our life stories are like a mystery to be solved, or a fairytale not to be believed. Sometimes our stories are like a Shakespearean play - entertaining, though we know not fully what they mean.

Regardless of the form our life stories take at any given point, we are the authors of those stories. We choose the filter, the perspective through which we regard our lives. If we change a word, or phase in our stories, watch and see how the sentiment or weight of the story can change. For example, in my poem, I wrote:

            “I feel empty and alone.

                        Confused, powerless, and helpless.”

If I were to add the words “right now” or “at times” notice how the weight of the sentiment is lightened.

“I feel empty and alone right now.

                        Confused, powerless, and helpless at times.”

No longer is the sentiment absolute, but it has loosened up and temporary, given the freedom to both exist and desist. The power lay in two simple words – “right now” or “at times”. Herein lies the power of authorship of our own stories.

Throughout the Yamim Noraim, I will be playing with different writing styles to convey what I hope will be relevant messages. Some, I hope will touch your hearts; some, I hope will stimulate your minds; some, I hope will penetrate your souls; and some, I hope will inspire you to act. As we say in the v’ahavta:

וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ

You shall love Adaoni your G-d will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might (Deut. 6:5)

Tonight, as we begin our journey within, I pray that each of us will be able to tap into our inner author and use our rich Jewish tradition embedded within these Days of Awe, along with our unique life experiences and awareness of our current state at this present moment in time to create our own stories with the relevant message we need to hear to guide and inspire us into this coming year.

Go forth and be creative. And remember, you are the author of your own life stories.

Shana Tova.

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