An etude is a short musical composition,
typically for one instrument,
designed as an exercise
to improve the technique
of the player.
Is it finger dexterity?
Standing beneath a canopy of trees
I hear the rhythm of their rustling leaves
I feel the heavenly breath of the breeze,
A breath so controlled it seems to last forever.
The tiny birds fly this way and that,
Alighting on one branch and darting off to the next
With a grace and alacrity that only practice can bring.
The river’s waters easily make their way over jutting rocks and stones,
Taking the ascents and descents with ease.
Nature takes her etudes in her stride.
It doesn’t come so easily for us.
Elul reminds us that it is time to turn to our soul’s etudes—
As we seek to return to—to improve—our best selves.
How can we be better aware of our body’s rhythm as we rustle through our days?
What can we do to appreciate each breath as we wake to each new day?
How can we make our way from moment to moment…person to person…
with grace and alacrity?
What can we do to ease our way through life’s ups and downs?
It takes finding the right teacher.
It takes making the time.
It takes concentration.
It takes practice.
Enid C. Lader is the rabbi at Beth Israel—The West Temple in Cleveland, Ohio, and received ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2010. For the past eight years, every three months Enid has led members of her congregation on a Shabbat b’Teva—a Shabbat morning walk through one of the beautiful metro parks in the area, celebrating Shabbat and the changing seasons of the year.
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