Starting again

Starting again

Finally, a lull.

Maybe it is our imagination, but the world, or at least our little corner of it, seems to have calmed down.

We are now well into the holiday season; Rosh Hashanah is well past, and depending on when you read this, Yom Kippur might be too. Those are the most emotionally dense of the Tishrei holidays, the days when memory and longing and fear and the desire for change and at the same time for return throb most painfully.

After that, Sukkot’s wonder and Simchat Torah’s joy feel almost like coasting.

And the weather has changed too. It’s fall now. The light has changed; the air feels different; we dress in layers, long sleeves and thin wool and sweaters and tights. Shabbat starts earlier and we walk our dogs in darkness.

Although many kinds of terror threatens from many quarters – from around Israel’s borders and the rest of the Middle East, from Europe, from Africa – none has intruded in the last few weeks. We have been free to revel in the change of seasons, in the excitement of the new light, of the intensity of the holidays.

So maybe now we have the luxury of looking around for signs of goodness after the terrible summer, when they were so hard to come by. Signs of unity. Signs of the truth that in fact, despite all the ideology and theology that divides us, we are one people.

To begin with, there are the holidays themselves, that time when all of us – well, okay, we don’t actually come together, but at least we do the same things at more or less the same time, even if we do them differently. It’s sort of like young children’s parallel play, which is after all an important development stage.

Tashlich brought so very many of us out. In Manhattan, that is strikingly visible, as Jews of every possible degree of difference, dressed in wildly varying ways, stand side by side along the rails throwing bread into the river and then allowing their thoughts to wander as they follow the clouds and the boats and then head home for yes, another meal.

Other ritual, too, is a great uniter. We might go about Slichot, say, differently, but the range of stories in our pages during the last few weeks, as well as the entries in our calendar, make it clear that it has community-wide appeal. And we know that on Friday night, the melody of Kol Nidrei will resound across the world. The voices will be different but the music will not.

And then there is food. Even those Jews who do not make it to shul at all on the holidays often find themselves at a table laden with impossible amounts of food. Whatever else we do, on these fall days we seem to eat as if gorging were newly fashionable.

When we consider how much hatred there is in the world around us, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we Jews could stop hating each other? If we could take the opportunity that this new year brings us to start again? To turn it around and turn it around and start fresh? To love each other like sisters and brothers? That is to say, not simply, not purely, not without resentments, not without some eye-rolling, not without baggage – but always with love.