Welcome to 5775!
I find that each year I experience the “celebration” or the tradition differently. Perhaps like everything in our lives we interact with the world based on what is happening inside us at the time. How lucky we are that no moment is identical to any other one so no experience is ever exactly like the one before or the one after.
Perhaps because one of our Rabbis pointed out in his sermon that Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the birthday of the world (though technically it occurs on the 6th day of creation, the day that Adam was created) that my own thinking this year turned to a reflection on starting over. The idea of a “birth” and being “reborn” each year might sound Christian to some, yet it is the essence of the Jewish holy days. We note the date and the start of another year AND we seek our own personal renewal. The process completes at the end of Yom Kippur, the day of repentance. It takes place throughout this period. For example, on Rosh Hashanah we observe the ritual of Taschlich, symbolically tossing our sins of the past year into a body of water. We at our Temple use pieces of bread to represent the sins.
Again, repair the past, get ready for a new year. We start over. A clean slate, hopefully. We work on our fresh start in a number of different ways. We think about what we did, who we hurt, how we erred and we resolve to do better, not to repeat the sins. We seek forgiveness first and foremost from those human beings we may have harmed in our misdeeds. Then we seek forgiveness from our God. It is all about starting over. Moving ahead. Being better, doing more and making a bigger difference in the world. 5775 is going to be a better year than 5774 because that is what we do, not because 5774 was particular bad but because we can always be new and different, and yes “better.”
It occurred to me this year that The Actual Dance is also about renewal. About getting ready to or facing the need to start over. The process of transcending the potential or actual loss of a loved one is in many ways akin to the rituals of the Jewish New Year – sometimes referred to as the Days of Awe. Perhaps this is the best phrase to describe The Actual Dance process. When else are we more in Awe of the miracle of the world than when it is about to end for someone we love.
Last week in my blog I asked the question “Do you have a word for that moment?” -- the moment when "it" is over. I described the process of “The Dance” as starting at the point of awareness that someone we love might die, to that point when something else happens to tell us that the Dance has “ended". I said then and repeat that I do not know what word to use when the Dance is over.
This week though I think I have a word to describe the condition that exists at that point of time. “Starting over.” Each loss of someone, especially the person you “love most in this world’, can be devastating and tragic. The journey is to find the beauty, dignity and love not just in that moment but in the world to come, the next “year” or period of our lives.
Each such event or loss is also a beginning. Living in the world in a new way. Experiencing life without someone where they always used to be both physically and emotionally. While tautologically speaking it is a "true fact" that the world is changed once there is a change, the “starting over” is a cognitive act and willing step. It is when we actually look forward, not back that we start over.
Today I was listening to a podcast “On Being” with Krista Tippett This is episode 147 about “pursuing happiness.” It featured a conversation with a number of noted religious figures, including the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. I was taken though by a comment of Rabbi Jonatan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. He pointed to the story of Jacob and the struggle with the angel (God) found in Genesis 32:22-32. Rabbi Sacks noted that Jacob refused to let the angel with whom he struggled and fought leave without first blessing him.
The point is that with each loss of the ones we love there are mighty struggles, our own wrestling match with angels. And like Jacob, we can awaken to a new story of our lives. It has been suggested to me that even though Susan survived her brush 14 years ago, that I am the one who struggled and only with finding the expression of writing and performing The Actual Dance did I really “start over” to create a the new story of my life.