Saturday, September 24, 2011

Earth Etude for 27 Elul

Running toward the Holy One of Blessing

Halfway to Chicago, as I drove south on Interstate 90, I started to feel panicky. I had to get off the highway. I didn’t know why, but something pushed me to continue to my nephew’s home on local roads. I turned eastward on Illinois 173.

As I drove along straight, flat roads between cornfields of northern Illinois, I began to understand. I wasn’t running away from something, I was running toward something. I had felt it earlier in the week when I had taken my mother to her favorite Nature Conservancy site to nourish her spirit. The memory of that day came back – a need to reconnect to the wide open spaces of the Midwest, my childhood home, a connection I couldn’t make barreling along on the Interstate. Ideally, I needed to pedal or walk across the land, or to sleep beneath the wide open sky. But circumstances hadn’t allowed any of those, and this was the next best thing. As I drove along, something inside me slowly shifted into place. I felt more whole.

Later, I pondered the matter of fleeing from vs. running toward. From the outside, the actions may look the same, and often, as I did, we may feel some wordless need to get away without realizing that what we really need is to move toward something.

During Elul and the Days of Awe that follow, we are enjoined to do teshuvah, to return – to re-turn – to G!d. We are not told to run away from something – rather we are told to run toward the Holy One of Blessing, to move closer to G!d, to become more connected to our innermost selves, and through this process, on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, to find forgiveness. As we end this month of preparation, may we feel our eyes and our ears and our hearts opening to better understanding, better seeing, and better hearing that toward which we are turning.

Katy Z. Allen is the rabbi and spiritual leader of Ma'yan Tikvah.

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