I am a student and teacher of Truth—Truth with a capital T. It doesn’t matter to me where Truth comes from: Jewish or Christian, Buddhist or hedonist, philosophy or psychology, secular or spiritual, east or west, OJ Simpson, Jessica Simpson or re-runs of “The Simpsons” (OK, this last Simpson is really the only one out of which you can squeeze a bit of Truth). All I care about is that it is True—True in all ways, to all people at all times. If it is then I’ll ride that Truth Train wherever it comes from or wherever it goes. That’s what I’ll be doing in my blogs. And that is what my philosophy and new offering, The Way, is all about.
For me, the most recent Truth Train has just made a few stops along the Hebrew calendar, as we just completed The Jewish High Holy Days. Whether you are Jewish or not, religiously observant or observantly irreligious, ride with me for a few stops through the Truth found within these holy days, as it has so much to offer all of us helping us in living a Truth-filled life.
It begins with the beginning. In life there is always a beginning, many beginnings, which is what Rosh Hashanah is all about. Periodically we all need a reset, if you will, and get back to our roots, our origin, to beginnings. We have a path to walk that is ours and ours alone, so we take this time to remember what it is and recommit to walking it as we begin again. This is The Way!
And yet, life is complicated, we are mortal, mistakes, hurts and transgressions are also part of the path. We take detours, we look for escape routes, we attempt to retreat or we dig in our heels and come to a grinding halt. These are the 10 days following the New Year, called the 10 Days of Returning. They symbolize straying and wandering, but most of all they symbolize return. Our bodies may pull us off course and our brains will talk us down paths not our own. However, buried within each and every one of us is a Divine GPS system, crying out to us in myriad ways, “recalculating,” “recalculating,” “Yo—idiot at the steering wheel—I’m recalculating. I’m doing my job. Do yours and listen to me; turn this thing around and get back on course!” (BTW this will forever change the way you hear “recalculating” on your Google Maps). And so, when we are ready, willing and able, we listen. We follow the road-map back. We return to the way we are supposed to go. This too is The Way!
Then comes Yom Kippur, also known as The Day of Atonement. It is a day, moment or a period of time when we do some soul-searching as to why we strayed, own the hurt our detours have caused others and take stock of the damage we have inflicted traveling the wrong way. It’s not about shame. It’s not about punishment. It is about recalculating, getting back on track, not “atonement,” but rather, AT-ONE-MENT—returning to our path and feeling of being AT ONE, again. And this is The Way!
And then, once we have regretted, recalculated and returned, we shed the illusions we once held onto, dump the empty goals which once propelled us, and eject the false sense of self which we allowed to climb behind the wheel in the first place. We open our mind and begin to dream, open our heart and begin to feel, open our spirit to what is possible. This is Sukkot, the seven days after Yom Kippur, where we move out into a sukkah, a temporary dwelling place. We do this to embody our willingness to live in the unknown, demonstrating our courage to remain vulnerable and open—to say to the world, or maybe to ourselves, we are here to live with authenticity no matter what storms may come. This is The Way!
And then, it is over. The sukkah is worn down, falling apart and ultimately, no matter how hard we try to prop it up, that old thing is going down. Whereas this once would have been cause for despair (the house is ruined, the things are broken, the body is dying), now it is cause for joy: joy for having made the journey, joy for having done the work, joy for having had the privilege to show up fully, live it completely and fulfill our purpose in this temporary waypoint.
And then the final day of the High Holy Day journey arrives, Simchat Torah—the day when we simply dance and sing and celebrate. We celebrate the gift of being blessed with a beginning, blessed with conscience, blessed with life. We celebrate having made the journey, struggles, mistakes, failures and all. We celebrate having picked ourselves up, gotten back into the arena, continued on our way making better choices, growing stronger and more open. Giving more. Living more. And loving more. That is why we celebrate.
And we celebrate the gift of memory, having woken up and remembered it all.
We remember the sukkah, the house, the things never mattered.
We remember the goals, the trophies, the accolades were never why we were here.
We remember the mistakes, the struggles, the failures were good for us, they helped us grow.
We remember who we are, and what we are. We remember that we are not a body, we are a soul.
And we remember why we are here—to walk not just any old path but our path; to make not just any old journey, but our journey; to follow just any old way, but our way. And that is The Way.
In conclusion, the year has ended, this cycle is over, and eventually, all beginnings come to an end. However, just as one holiday has ended, just as one year has concluded, just as one lifetime is over, you open your eyes, and you see before you a new season, a new cycle, a new beginning. And the journey repeats again and again and again.
That is the journey we are here to make. That is the path we are here to walk.
Find your way. Live your way. Love your way. And if you do, no matter when the season is over, it will be cause not for mourning, but for rejoicing, not for sorrow but for joy. And that is The Way!
This blog is dedicated to my beloved Grandma Florence (Flo) Brody. Her body died in the midst of Sukkot, but the joy of her soul dances on and on and on.
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