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Shalom friends,

 

To eclipse or not to eclipse? The chance to see the full solar eclipse on August 21 tempted me all summer. It is reported to be a brilliant event: the glowing corona of the sun and the moon’s dancing Baily’s Beads are stunning sights to behold. At the peak moment, the sky goes dark, temperatures can fall, and birds and animals often go quiet. Stars and planets emerge in the middle of the day. Unprecedented, at least for me. 

 

“Unprecedented” is a word we have been hearing a lot lately in the news. If we keep up with the headlines, it is easy to feel that we are in the vortex of a storm, the likes of which never have never been seen before.

 

We might imagine that our ancients mistook eclipses as unprecedented messages and omens from God, but we would be wrong.  Our sages debated but knew quite well of their existence in nature and took most sensational events in stride.  So, too, for us. In fact, there will be complete solar eclipses in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023, albeit not visible in North America,

 

Especially at this time of year and during this year of tumult, I invite us to turn to two timeless messages our Sages offered as wisdom for the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe): namely a verse from Kohelet (Ecclesiates) that we will read at the very end of Sukkot andthe Psalm we read from the beginning of the season (Elul 1/ August 22). They reflect one of the things I most cherish about our Jewish tradition: its deep wisdom of the human condition and the advice it offers to address our needs, our foibles and our follies.

 

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;

There is nothing new under the sun.”  (Kohelet 1:9)

 

“Adonai is my light and my help, whom need I fear? The Eternal is the strength of my life, whom need I dread? When evil-doers draw near to consume me, when foes threaten, they stumble and fall. Though armies be arrayed against me, I will have no fear; though war threatens, I would retain my trust.” (Ps 27: 1-3)

 

On behalf of our timeless tradition, l’dorotam berit olam, (the eternal covenant throughout the generations), I invite you to join me in engaging in the prescription of the season: cheshbon hanefesh (the accounting of our souls). Spend some time asking questions that will give us perspective on our lives: what is truly new? How have you changed in the last year? What is eternal?  Where is new growth possible? What is truly important and what is just today’s headlines?

 

I look forward to celebrating the holidays together in prayer, study, meditation and song and wish you a shana tova, a sweet and meaningful new year from my family to yours.

 

L’shalom,

 

Rabbi Leana Moritt