Heshvan is here and Autumn is upon us
Rabbi Seidel’s letter for October/Heshvan
Now that the High Holidays and their “High” have begun to fade a bit from memory, our Jewish world and individual lives embark on the the month of Heshvan, which is curiously devoid of Holy Days other than four blessed Shabbatot. The changing of the season and foliage, fall of leaves,, the coming of the rain that we asked for in the “Geshem” prayer have almost arrived. We are almost exactly in sync with the Land of Israel. It is our task in this season of reading Genesis to begin again to live, think and create Jewishly and join humanity in the challenges ahead.
A Jewish life well lived sees human activity in both circular, mythological time that hearkens backward and forward in eternal recurring motion and linear, reaching-for-redemption time. Judaism exemplifies both realms, one more nature oriented and the other more historically conscious. In both, however, community arises and the rabbis ask us to get involved.
In this challenging and polarized time for our country, we realize that co-creation is the Jewish way. Creation did not conclude with the big bang but is in continuous fluid motion and manifestation. Humanity has a significant and powerful role in affecting the planet through intelligent and circumspect use of technology. In this season we pray for help in fixing our Neshamot and move, ahead with meaningful, spiritually grounded activities so that we can, in fact, get involved. Community, involvement can take the form of engagement with Nature, and our co-inhabitant, other-than-human animal plant neighbors, participation in social causes or engagement with the arts. When it appears that there is nothing new under the Sun, we might wrestle with Torah together, and get involved in local community educational, social justice, environmental issues. We do what we can .
In Heshvan we look to the Divine Source of unlimited help to renew Creation every day, to make every day “Beresheet.” Genesis is inextricably linked to Exodus in our tradition; Creation is connected to Redemption and Freedom. For some of us movement towards freedom requires direct political and social action fighting the powers of oppression, intolerance and corruption; for others an internal process of meditation and prayer. For our community here in Oregon – a tightly knit matrix of the two intentions.
Humanity and Creation contain the seeds of their own “goodness” and spiritual evolution. It is instructive to listen to how the Rabbis interpret the additional word “M’od” after the creation of Humanity in Genesis:
B'reisheet Rabbah ch. 9 gives diverse interpretations of "v'hineh
tov m'od" but one of them is "m'od zeh adam", that the thing that
makes Creation very good is the human being. (9:12)
But Yosef Ashkenazi (13th-14th century) explains that the adam is
called olam katan, a small world, because the name of the whole
Creation is Adam, hence "m'od zeh adam" means that the whole of
Creation is what is very good.
(thanks to Rabbi David Seidenberg here)
Taking care of creation is taking care of the image of God in the world
Taking care of ourselves is honoring the divine within and the divine in others.
So too, let’s embark on this Heshvan journey together, as we practice self care, as we support our friends, take care of our families, and find new modalities of Torah in our daily Life. Renewing Life, Blessed Be.
Happy Autumn, Happy Heshvan and Rosh Hodesh Tov.