Sunday, September 9, 2012

Standing at the Threshold (portion Nitzavim)

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, Nitzavim, offers just such an episode.  Moses, who is soon to die, enjoins a new generation of Israelites: “You stand here this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God—you tribal heads, you elders and you officials, all the men of Israel, you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from the woodchopper to the water drawer—to enter into the covenant of the Eternal your God, which your God is concluding with you this day. . . I make this covenant not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us this day and with those who are not with us here this day.”

This passage speaks powerfully to me this week, personally and professionally.  On Sunday, I sent my daughter Rosa off on a great adventure—a semester at the National Outdoor Leadership School.  We will both cross a threshold, as she begins her adult life away from home and I experience the unique mix of grief and joy that comes with such moments.

Meanwhile, all of us here at CABI stand together, as a community, at the threshold of a new year.  We will make choices, individually and communally, that will affect both us and those who will come after us.  It takes courage and faith to move forward, to break the patterns that have not been helpful and to solidify those that have brought forth blessing for ourselves and those around us.

As we prepare to enter the unmapped territory of the future, we can take comfort in knowing that our journey is guided by the wisdom of a deep and rich tradition.  We are Yisrael—the people who wrestle with, and sing of the Holy One. As we say farewell to 5772, we can all draw on this legacy to give us the strength to press ahead.  Before Rosh Hashanah, consider what parts of your past you would like to carry with you into the new year, and what you would choose to leave behind as you pass through this portal in time and space.

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

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