"As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed
As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed
and the blessings give us strength, and make our visions clear
And the blessings give us peace, and the courage to dare
As we bless the source of life, so we are blessed."
That's Faith Rogow's poem. In Jewish Renewal contexts, we sing it fairly often as a prelude to the Bar'chu, the call to prayer.
I'm always struck by the line about the "courage to dare." A quick Google search reveals that the phrase means different things to different people -- e.g. the Courage to Dare Foundation, bringing breast cancer awareness to rural communities -- but for me the phrase always evokes this Faith Rogow poem. I love the experience of invoking the courage to dare as part of our lead-in to the Bar'chu.
There is something daring about entering into prayer. About standing before God and offering our praises and our supplications as though we actually believed that the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Source of All Being, were listening to us. More: as though the Source of All Being actually cared what we had to say. That's the audacious claim made by Jewish prayer practice every day: that we can dare to stand before God, expecting God to listen.
During Elul, we dare to imagine that our process of self-examination is more than mere navel-gazing. That our inner work of teshuvah matters to how we will be in the world in the coming year; that, like our prayers, it matters to God.
During Elul, we dare to hope that despite all of our patterns and ruts and familiar old grooves, we can strive to be better people than we have been. We can aim to be more conscious, more kind, more giving, more forgiving in the year to come.
During Elul, we dare to face all of who we are: the places where we are glorious, and the places where we are dreadful. Our best actions of the year now ending, and our worst ones. We dare to admit that all of this is part of who we are.
We dare to stand before God as we take an accounting of ourselves. We dare to claim that we can change. We dare, even, to ask God's help in being the change we want to see in the world.