Saturday, September 3, 2011

Earth Etude for 6 Elul

I have been feeling “out of sync” with the High Holidays this year, feeling that I am going in to them unresolved about many aspects of life. I do not at all feel ready to start a new year due to not being finished with the old one. The reading of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy brought all this on. The very end of the Commandments says, “not to desire…” and “not to covet…” How can we be commanded not to feel something? A feeling arises spontaneously! One can become aware of it, acknowledge it, and decline to act on it. But we can’t honestly not feel it. That insight brought me to the larger picture of being not ready to engage in teshuvah or the High Holidays in a real way.

As I thought about all this, I realized that there are many places in the Torah where an action is prescribed or proscribed. Some of those commandments we can follow just because they are the correct thing to do. Others must be held as an ideal that we may not be entirely able to do. This includes the “not to desire/covet” commandments and the High Holiday tradition of reflection on the old year and going on to a new and improved one. I now am seeing these commandments as statements that these things are potentially available to a human being. We can work toward not coveting and not desiring. And maybe that is enough to give us hope that things may not always be unresolved. Even if it is not possible never to covet or desire, it is helpful to acknowledge the possibility, the potential.

Lois Rosenthal is affiliated with Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop. She particularly enjoys teaching bar and bat mitzah students there, to transfer to them her appreciation of Judaism.

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