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A Kavannah for the High Holy Days
hiking in the holiness
As we move towards the intensive experience that we call the High Holy, I want to suggest that hiking is a great metaphor and access point into the season. It is how we might prepare ourselves a little differently for the New Year’s arrival. Perhaps thinking of these season as a BackRoads Itinerary can offer alternative images that are easier to use for personal meaning than the classical images of entering the court to prepare to meet a King.
What happens on a hike? We pack a map, sturdy boots, a compass, sunglasses, rain gear, a flashlight, first-aid supplies and snacks and head off on a trail, often with a child, or friend at our side. We might talk for a long time; we may walk in silence with the vistas of great natural beauty keeping us going. Often climbing up is easier than climbing down. We might notice changes in our bodies as we age, stopping for breath more often, or feeling unsteady on the descent. But usually the effort brings us into places (Makom) of inspiration and wonder, where our smallness and limited natures are located within the vast and majestic and eternal.
So it was for our ancestors who hiked the hikes which we read about on Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur. There are actually 6 spiritual hikes mentioned during these days, but I will only discuss one of the two hikes of the Haftarot, one of Jeremiah (31:1-19) and of Isaiah (57:14-58:14) where God offers to meet all weary hikers on the road back, even to pave a way ( Solu, Solu in Isaiah) to make the return journey more accessible:
Watch me bring them from a northern land; I shall gather them from the ends of the earth. Blind and limping, pregnant women all together, birthing mothers, a great flock of people will come back here, in tears they will come and in mercy I will lead them, to rivers of water along an open road. They will not stumble…
We are always on the hike of life , which is why we need to prepare, pack supplies, and then open ourselves to what might happen. In this season we can transform our journey into ever-deepened awareness. The map of the trail is the Mahzor prayer book, the compass is the Torah and the stories of our ancestors, the sunglasses to give our eyes clear vision. the boots, our supports, the rain gear a handkerchief for the tears which may flow, the flashlight, perhaps a yahrzeit candle and first-aid supplies, what we find we will need to heal the sensitive and hurting heart.
by Jane Shapiro on approaching the High Holy Days 5780
A Kavannah for Tisha B’Av
אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים Eleh Ha’dvarim
These are the words.
The words that brought us here.
The words that shaped this hard place
We have come to know and yet, in this place
words escape us.
Thumbtacks on the map.
Moments of sojourning.
Encounters with struggle
Where are we standing?
Where have we traveled?
Where are we heading?
And what will carry us there?
We step into the places of destruction
Search for shafts
Of light and
Return to the words.
For words shake and sculpt the world
We dare to build.
May we return to the primal power of the devarim - the words - that can birth worlds and kill them, and may we renew our dogged dedication to use them as holy instruments of giving life.
By Rebecca Minkus Lieberman - Devarim / Tisha B’Av - 5779