Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the Threshold

Some of our most memorable experiences happen in life’s borderlands, thresholds where and when we pass from one significant time or place to another. This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, offers just such an episode. Moses, who is soon to die, enjoins a new generation of Israelites: “As soon as you have crossed the Jordan into the land that God is giving you, you shall set up large stones. . . and inscribe upon them all the words of this Teaching.”

This passage speaks powerfully to me this week, personally and professionally. Just a few days ago, I sent my oldest daughter off to college. We both crossed a threshold, as she began her adult life away from home and I experienced the unique mix of grief and joy that comes with such moments.

Meanwhile, we stand together, as a community, at the threshold of a new year.

As we prepare to enter the unmapped territory of the future, we can take comfort in knowing that the wisdom of our past travels with us, engraved, if not on large stones, then in our hearts and memories. As I said farewell to Tanya, I offered her the priestly blessing, the benediction I have given her nearly every Shabbat evening since her birth almost nineteen years ago. And as we say farewell to 5770, we can all draw on our shared tradition to give us the strength to move forward. Before Rosh Hashanah, consider what parts of the past you would like to carry with you into the new year, and what you would choose to leave behind.

I’ll end with the words of poet Adrienne Rich, which can be found in Mishkan Tefilah, our Reform siddur:

Either you will

go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door

No comments: