Sunday, September 7, 2014

Earth Etude for Elul 13 - The Flood

by Rabbi Dorit Edut

The meteorologists predicted a possible heavy rainstorm and suggested bringing an umbrella to work.  But as I drove home from an interfaith conference, I got a call from my husband announcing: “ You’ll have to swim home – everything is flooded here.” My heart stopped beating for a minute when I heard this, realizing that all my rabbinic books and papers, many photograph albums including those from my parents’ lives in pre-Holocaust Europe, all our children’s albums and  memorabilia, my father’s award-winning black and white mounted photos, and beautiful maple wood furniture which pre-dated me – all that was DOWN THERE!

But for now, I had to focus on getting home somehow - and indeed, the roadblocks on the main streets and highways were everywhere, with 12 feet of water at a nearby highway underpass near our home. Parking the car at a school several blocks away, I trudged through knee-deep water, only to find my husband standing waist-deep  in the middle of the lake created on our street, valiantly trying to hold back the debris so the storm sewers could drain in front of our house.  All the basements in our small suburb and several other surrounding ones had flooded with 3-5 feet of contaminated water. The irony of it all only hit me two days later when the curbsides where piled high with water-logged garbage – our community was nationally  known for being a leader in recycling ! – yet now was contributing to a huge increase of  landfill acreage with all these destroyed belongings. 

Like Noah, I looked for signs of a renewal of life and dry land. This morning I found my “white dove” in the shape of the humongous white hydrangea trees and bushes and the fragrant white lily hostas blooming expansively in front of my house. Our garden did remind me that life  goes on and there is beauty and hope to be found around us, in just letting things go naturally.

As we enter the month of Elul, reflecting on what this all means and where we can improve our lives – and also entering the year of Shmita, of releasing the land to rest – I find several clear messages coming through:

First: Live simply and examine  what you are “attached” to.

Second: We have had an Oral Tradition accompanying our Written Law – perhaps it is time for us to focus on this in a new way, relying on our memories to tell the stories, archiving what is really important on computer memory sticks, and relying on the vast internet libraries instead of creating our own paper jungles at home.

Third: Thank and show appreciation for our neighbors, friends, and families for whatever ways they support us; be on the lookout constantly for  ways to help others, quietly and in advance of a request.

Fourth: While we never can fully understand the ways of God, we  know that if we truly rely on God’s help and direction, it will come; let us be patient and trusting as our ancestors were when they could not plant for an entire year. We will survive – and even prosper!

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