Most years in Elul we say
"the King is in the Field" --
God walks with us in the tall grass
to hear our yearnings.
This year, Shechinah
shelters-in-place with us.
With her, we don't need to mask
our fears or our despair.
When we stay up too late
reading the news again
or binge-watch The Good Place
desperate for redemption
she does too. As we practice
social distancing, we're not alone:
she summons angels to encourage
the scallions we re-grow
just as they cheer on the maples
releasing their helicopter seeds,
compressed packages of hope
for the eventual coming of spring.
“The King is in the Field” - R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi wrote that during the month leading up to the Days of Awe, “The King is in the Field.” God, whom he imagined as a transcendent King distant from us, is close to us during this special month -- walking with us to hear our inmost prayers, like a beloved friend offering a listening ear.
“Shechinah / shelters-in-place” - Shechinah is the Jewish mystics’ name for the immanent, indwelling Presence of God. The name is related to the Hebrew word for neighborhood; this is God dwelling with and within us. In this pandemic year, sheltering-in-place requires no explanation...
“Angels to encourage” - Midrash holds that there is an angel assigned to every blade of grass, constantly and lovingly encouraging the grass to grow. Many of us started regrowing scallions during the pandemic. May we be blessed with encouragement for our own growth during this holiday season.
(This is the Elul / New Year's poem that I wrote to send to family and friends this year. You can read the last seventeen years' worth of such poems here.)