Yesterday at services for Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return, we were reminded that "turning" can't be expressed in an IM, and that fasting is... not fast. Teshuva is out of synch with the pace of our world; it can take a lifetime, and requires assistance. Teshuva reminds me of T'ai Chi, which looks slow but is full of energy. I've been dreaming all week of al chet, times when I missed the mark (translated in the machzor, for sake of poetic brevity, as "sinning"), as if God is making sure my subconscious takes the lead when the rest of me is afraid to. I'm relieved to finally understand that on Yom Kippur we're commanded to contemplate, explore, and even obsess over those efforts but, as it says in Pirkei Avot, "It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to desist from it."
The other partner in the dance has to be ready, as well. Yesterday we read a poem by Abraham Joshua Heschel, "Repentance," which concludes:
We—God and man and dogs,
let's repent together
or each one for the other
And forgive us our sins
as we forgive You Yours.
In the relative scheme of things, I've rotated perhaps a few inches over the past few years, pulled and cajoled into that slight movement by the most patient of allies. I did learn one thing: the singing I've done all my life, the choirs, the a cappella groups, was really just to teach me how to pray. (A lesson that will continue for the rest of my days.) But prayer is nothing without action. Now I have to move some more, not push back quite as much. I face Yom Kippur with fear not only of change, but of the end of another cycle of beginning. Sometimes I live too much for the start of things--especially the beginnings that happen this week, which I get to sing and write about, savor, deconstruct (and perhaps, in the process of reviewing all those details, miss the meaning of the bigger picture). But the rehearsals are now over, and I have to keep turning.
Welcome to the few dozen people who've found this blog in past weeks by searching for the words "El Nora Alilah" (and an array of alternate spellings thereof). I also Googled, and learned their literal meaning:
El Nora = "awesome" or "awful" God
alilah = "deed," "work of creation," "plot"
The author of this article interprets the phrase cynically as it relates to the entire story of the Jewish people: "God of awful plotting." I hope and pray that their true meaning is "God of awesome creation." G'mar chatima tovah; may we all be sealed in a Book of Life that's God's best novel ever of amazing and wonderful stories.