September 13, 2007

Days of Awe: Fresh Starts

It is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. Rosh Hashanah is at once a celebration of the birth of the world, and a time of self-examination and repentance. These days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement (at-one-ment), called the Days of Awe, are my favorite holidays. I grew up believing this holy time of judgment and penitance to be very solemn, but in recent years I see them as a cause for celebration, because I am reminded of the true, forgiving nature of God, of reality. I love the timing of the high holy days; September, back-to-school time. I've always loved fresh starts.

This year I am not celebrating in the most traditional way. I did go to (very feminist, egalitarian, progressive, Santa Cruz-style) services last night, and heard the sound of the shofar (ram's horn), a call to wake up. I can always use the reminder.

Today I went down to the San Lorenzo River, steps from my front door, to perform my personal version of tashlich, the custom of casting bread upon the waters, symbolic of throwing off the year's accumulated sins. For me, sin is about separation: how have I separated myself from others, from the earth, from my body, from Creation, by believing anything is less than good? Where did I drop the ball, and why? With ducks and seagulls as my witnesses, I asked myself and the universe for the clarity to make things right, and for a clean slate. The birds happily fished the stale bread bits out of the river, and having no concept of such things, took on no sins of mine.

Afterwards, I went swimming, cognizant that this was also my mikvah, or ritual bath. As the water cleansed and supported me, I was reminded of the words of a beautiful song:

Return again, return again,
Return to the home of your soul.
Return to who you are, return to what you are,
Return to where you are born and reborn again.

"We always begin now." —Byron Katie.

May all be inscribed in your Book of Life for a beautiful year/beautiful mind.


©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

1 comment:

Louise said...

Thank you for sharing so besutifully. A good reminder for me!