(Revised) Prayer for Syria
Creating Community (A sermon for Rosh Hashanah morning)

#BlogElul 29: Return | an #Elul poem about #teshuvah, and thoughts on returning



How to make it new:
each year the same missing
of the same marks,
the same petitions
and apologies.

We were impatient, unkind.
We let ego rule the day
and forgot to be thankful.
We allowed our fears
to distance us.

But every year
the ascent through Elul
does its magic,
shakes old bitterness
from our hands and hearts.

We sit awake, itemizing
ways we want to change.
We try not to mind
that this year’s list
looks just like last.

The conversation gets
easier as we limber up.
Soon we can stretch farther
than we ever imagined.
We breathe deeper.

By the time we reach the top
we’ve forgotten
how nervous we were
that repeating the climb
wasn’t worth the work.

Creation gleams before us.
The view from here matters
not because it’s different
from last year
but because we are

and the way to reach God
is one breath at a time,
one step, one word,
every second a chance
to reorient, repeat, return.

Blogelul2013This poem was written in 2005, and served as my Elul card that year. (You can find all of the Elul / New Year's poems I've written over the years at the page VR New Year's Poems.) It seemed an apt way to close out my experience of blogging #blogElul this year.

Every year during this season we focus on our work of teshuvah, of turning and re-turning to orient ourselves toward God. As one of my favorite prayers of the season goes, "Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul." (The melody I know is by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z"l; I'm not sure whether or not he also wrote the words.) "Return to who you are, return to what you are, return to where you are born and reborn again..."

Every year we reorient, repeat, return. Every year the work is the same because it is human nature to need to make teshuvah: daily, weekly, monthly, annually. We are always human, we are always missing the mark, we are always needing to return. Every year the work is different because we are different. We bring this year's version of our selves to the work at hand.

I wish you every blessing in the continuing work of teshuvah, of returning to our Source, returning to God, turning yourself around again so that you can feel in your heart and know in your mind that you are on the right path again. May we all be blessed to return to where we need to be.

Happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone. May your new year be joyous and sweet.