#BlogElul 25: Begin
August 31, 2013
I love that this is the time of year when my religious tradition tells me we are beginning again.
In the northern hemisphere where I live, we are at the height of harvest. Already the nights are cooler than they were, the days noticeably shorter than in high summer. The corn and tomatoes and peaches and lettuces are exquisite. Summer is waning. We know that winter is coming. And it is now -- as the evidence of our senses tells us that we are moving toward an end, dwindling down to nothing, the days getting shorter and shorter -- that our tradition says we begin again.
(In the southern hemisphere, perhaps some of the meaning of new beginnings in September is that winter is giving way to spring, to new green and new life. I've never spent a round of the seasons in the global South. I'd love to hear from someone who has thoughts on what this seasonal / spiritual transition is like from that end of the planet.)
This is the season when the school year begins. This doesn't have a big impact on my family yet -- our son's preschool runs right through the summer -- but I know that someday it will. And even though our son isn't beginning at a new school, he's starting in a new classroom soon, moving up a year. The goldenrod-yellow schoolbuses are beginning to ply the streets again. The stores are filled with notebooks and number two pencils, symbols of learning and of infinite possibility.
In Jewish tradition, it's always possible to begin again. This is in some ways the central message of teshuvah, repentance or return: that we can always start over. We can't undo the past, but we can move beyond it. Every morning, our liturgy proclaims, God returns our souls to us (having guarded them carefully while we slept) and every morning they are unblemished and pure. Every day we can make teshuvah, seek forgiveness, start over. Every day can be a new beginning.