It’s 57 degrees tonight. The chill in the air is a signal from the stratosphere that it’s transition time. Short sleeves to long ones. Sweaters out of storage. Jackets out of the closet.
Of course the transition is not only external, driven by meteorological factors. It’s happening in our souls, too. What’s your temperature? Are you feeling the warmth of connection, of family and friends? Do you feel the chill of separation? Do you sense distance between you and the rest of the world? Are there storm clouds of impending loss and dissolution? Is there a struggle going on in your soul, 2 competing weather systems bound to cause thunder and lightning?
Yom Kippur is the annual internal weather report for carefully tabulating the temperature of our souls. I know most of us don’t set a lot of time aside to do this. And I am certainly not going to try convincing you to start now.
So rather than make elaborate plans for what you’re going to do during services tomorrow night and all day Wednesday, let’s just focus on this moment of your reading right now and the immediate moments afterwards. Here are some questions to ponder:
1 What was a joyful moment in your life over this past year? Don’t get hung up in trying to choose the most joyful. Just pick one particular memory of the past year that still makes you feel good.
2 What was a terrible moment, one you’d rather forget – but you can’t?
3 What’s something you want to do in this new year, something that will make your life better? Again, it can be something small – it doesn’t have to be the cure for Ebola.
4 Who is one person you want to make things better with?
5 Who is one person you know you need to forgive?
6 Who is one person who needs to forgive you?
If you’re up late tonight, do this now. After all, if this is your only pre-Yom Kippur planning besides carbo loading and extra hydration, what have you got to lose? And if you are reading this before breakfast, wait until you drink at least half of your coffee. Some folks like to do this with someone else. Don’t succumb to that urge unless this person will hear what you have to say without judgment.
Listen: you are a precious soul blessed with the gift of life and the consciousness to understand just how extraordinary that fact is. Don’t waste it all on the superficialities western culture bombards us with 24/7/365. Resist the urge, for at least a few minutes if not more, to look at the world through no one else’s lens but your own. Embrace the joy. Acknowledge the struggle. Give in to the only thing we know about the future, and that is: we have no idea what’s out there, just beyond tomorrow.
Answer the six questions. Take the time to focus in a bit. Use this moment, at least this moment for some soul-searching and some soulful reassuring. Give yourself the expansiveness of mindfulness. Be worthy of this gift of life that is yours.
On early maps when cartographers drew up to the limit of what had been confirmed by explorers, they would write Hic sunt Dracones. Here be dragons. Well my dear friends and TBA hevreh, as I look out into the darkness of 5776, I say “Here be dragons!” And I say, “So let’s go.”
The Stern Gang and I all together pray that you have a meaningful fast and a promising weather report.