By Rabbi Mark Melamut
Shalom to All,
It’s that time of year again. We can begin to imagine the sounds of the shofar calling us from wherever we’ve been since last year. The sweet taste of a dollop of honey drizzled on an apple slice or on round challah is almost here. Can you see yourself changing into your sandals to make the annual pilgrimage down to Ocean Beach? Facing the Pacific Ocean, we will cast away the breadcrumbs of who we’ve been so that we can become who we want to be in the coming year. In my holiday memories, I can also picture gripping tightly in my hand a pack of life savers, carefully eating them color by color. Life Savers?
When I was little my Dad used to bring along life savers to keep my brother and I occupied during most religious services. Though I can also remember the shofar, the white robes, the mixture of varied perfumes, as well as apples and honey, what sticks out in my mind are the life savers. Perhaps this is because candy makes a big difference to children, especially during a seemingly endless service. I wonder if there is something else about this colorful roll. After all, they are round and sweet. Perhaps it’s not about the candy, but about the perspective that may unroll for each of us at this time of year.
Of course Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide us with opportunities to be introspective, but this time of year can also provide us with perspective. These “sweet moments” often unwrap themselves, as we simultaneously look back, focus on the present moment and anticipate the year ahead. Indeed, the holidays are unique in the spiritual dimensions of Jewish time, literally being “the head of the year” and “the day for atonement” (or as I prefer, “at-one-ment”). In my personal practice though, I try not to wait until the holidays in order to gain perspective. Sometimes I find a taste of it on Shabbat, in meeting with those who are ill, in everyday conversations, and when I’m alone or with my family or friends.
Sometimes it takes an effort to find perspective. Whatever happens each week, I make time to saunter or hike along the Morey Point trail near our home in Pacifica. As I climb the trail, the salty air wakes me up and often rabbits and other animals cross my path. I reach the top, and from there I can make out the dot of the Cliff House to the North and Linda Mar beach in Pacifica to the South. Below, I watch the rolling waves crash ashore and their rhythm soothes my soul. Beyond, I’m awed by the horizon, and the wide expanse of the endless blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean. From this vantage point, I’m able to reflect and ask my questions. Where have I been? What am I experiencing now? What is on my horizon?
From the vantage point of this New Year, what are your questions?
May this New Year be as sweet as honey for each of us, our families and our community.
May it be as colorful, varied, complete and whole as a roll of life savers.
May we all grip this precious time tightly in our hands, and allow it to be a true “life saver” for us.
Rabbi Mark Melamut