This week's portion: where teshuvah can be found
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A sweet Shabbat

This morning I awoke to a spectacularly sunny day. The rain of the last few days has passed, and today was bright and autumnal-crisp. From my vantage point on our hill, I could see mist pooled in the valleys, but the hilltops gleamed green and gold. My shul, of course, is in one of those valleys; all of Williamstown is. So by the time I arrived at synagogue, I was driving through fog, and there was no trace of sun in the sanctuary. "It's supposed to be a pretty day once the fog burns off," a fellow congregant offered. In response, my rabbi told a story about once hearing John Cage (z"l) speak.

John apparently quoted a Japanese saying which translates to "every day is a beautiful day" -- though in Japanese, that phrase is something like "day day beautiful day," which sounds like a tiny poem. (In Hebrew, too, the term "every day" is denoted by repeating the word for "day," but thanks to the vagaries of Hebrew syntax, it comes out more like "day day day beautiful.") Anyway, that was the kavanah with which we entered our Shabbat morning davening. Sun or fog, every day is a beautiful day.

One of the beauties of this day was that we managed a minyan, which meant we could take the Torah out of the ark -- which led to a dazzling surprise: our new Torah mantles! They arrived yesterday, so this was their first use (which merited a heartfelt shehecheyanu.) They were custom-woven by Phyllis Kantor, and depict the mountains and trees outside our sanctuary, and are adorned with appropriate quotations -- one reads Etz hayyim hee, "It is a tree of life," and the other reads Esa einai el he-harim, "I cast my eyes up to the mountains."

Tonight we'll re-dress the scrolls in our other brand-new Torah covers (also woven by Phyllis Kantor), which bear the same design but in off-white tones for the Days of Awe. I've worn a Phyllis Kantor tallit for 19 years (the off-white one at the far-left in this picture), and her work is a perfect example of hiddur mitzvah, making a mitzvah more beautiful and therefore enhancing its ability to glorify the source of All.

The day has held other joys, too: lunch with an old and dear friend (which turned into a three-hour extravaganza of tea, catching up, walking around town, eating sushi, and having coffee) and then sitting on the deck with the cat soaking up glorious sun. (Also giving myself a pedicure, which is a frivolous but very real pleasure.) And just now I nipped over to and ordered myself a lulav and etrog set, which means I'm suddenly looking forward on some level to Sukkot.

It's good to have a mellow Shabbat like this, especially now. This blog has been a little heavy lately, as I've been working through the intellectual and spiritual process of teshuvah, examining myself and my patterns, and exploring ideas which spark me toward repentance. Inasmuch as the blog is a reflection of my head and heart, it's been a valid reflection of where I'm at. But today it feels sweet to post about something gentle and enjoyable, a kind of pause before the rollercoaster of the Days of Awe.

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