“Dazzled by the night with mortal lights
Should we love life or just watch it pass by?
From our nights of smoke there is almost nothing left,
as ashes in the morning.
At this subway filled with vertigo of life,
at the next station…”
(Eblouie par la nuit- Zaz)
Friday morning. The peacefulness of the morning anticipating the arrival of the Sabbath. Birds are singing in the early morning sunshine. I glance at the candelabra on the window sill. Morning sun sparkling off each candlestick, in a wondrous glow of dazzle and color. Miraculous, almost. And the hands of the women of the family will light the candles in the evening, and the flames will brighten the darkness of the night.
I quickly pull out my cellphone to capture the sight of dazzle and light. To my surprise, upon looking at the photo, I see merely a glass candlelabra. The sparkle and glow have disappeared.
Incredible. Apparently, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. Dazzle is in the eyes of the bedazzled. What is viewed is in the eyes of the viewer, as sound is in the ears of the hearer. The beauty, the joy are in the hearts of the one who is participating, not in the moment itself. Presented to us daily is the potential to receive the miracle of creation, the blessings of life, which we can realize, or not even see. We have the option to realize the moment, or let it pass by. The grace, the blessing, the miracle of life itself, is in our own hearts and minds to receive.
“Because the matter is very close to you
In your mouth and your heart to do it “
We are now in the month of Elul. The month in which we evaluate our past and future decisions, our actions. What is and what might have been. What is, and what may be. What we hope will be. We ponder, what is the path to take which is blessed.
Elul is the month of spiritual preparation, of introspection and repentance. The sound of the shofar awakens us, reminds us to begin soul searching.
In fact, the word “Elul” is similar to the root of the verb “search” in Aramaic. We are now in the month in which we search our hearts and draw closer to God, in preparation for the coming Days of Awe. The month in which the presence of the Divine is almost palpable.
“His left hand is under my head, His right hand envelopes me.” (Songs 2:6)
But now. Just when we thought life was returning to us in the fullness of health and security, we find ourselves again in a situation of insecurity. In a world of danger. Facing the unknown with trepidation and uncertainty. What will be our fate? What will be of tomorrow?
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and why do you assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD and my claim is ignored by my God’?”
And we remember. Imperfection is inherent in the world, in the nature of man. During the month of Tammuz occurred the breaking of the first set of tablets of the law. ”And I saw, and behold, you had sinned against the Lord, your God..….So I gripped the two tablets, cast them out of my two hands, and shattered them before your eyes.” (Deut. 9:16-17)
Apparently, this was the appropriate action for Moses to take. “There is a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones.” (Ecclesiastes: 3:5)
There is a time for throwing the tablets (the first set) and a time for gathering the tablets (the second set). (Daat Zekenim)
We have a desire for perfection. To return life to how it was before things were broken. To return to the Garden of Eden as it was before The Fall. To return to the world as it once was, as it could have been, as we think it should have been.
But the world we live in is one of frailty and imperfection. A world in which the first divine tablets were shattered, and the broken tablets remained broken.
That which is broken cannot be made whole again. Our broken dreams, promises, resolutions, cannot be unbroken.
We are now in the month of Elul, when a new set of tablets was being carved. “And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke, and you are to place them in the ark.” (Deut 10:2) During this month we look at the destruction, the shattering, the broken pieces of hopes, and see in them the possibility of newness. For the second set of tablets included also the Oral Law. ”…however in the second tablets I will give you, they will have Halacha Midrash and Aggadah". (Shemot Rabbah 46:1)
As Israel continued the journey in the desert, both broken and new tablets were carried together. According to tradition, both the broken first tablets and the whole second tablets were placed in the Holy Ark. (Baba Batra 14b)
In our personal lives, the broken and the potential for wholeness exist together. The old and the new, the disappointments and the promise, the despair and the hope, the dream and the reality, they are a part of us. We carry both with us together throughout life. They become incorporated into a new vision of the future.
The second tablets were carved by the hands of Moses.(Exodus 34:1)
These new tablets were the result of human endeavor in partnership with God. We have the role of participating in ongoing creation, the opportunity to be God’s partner in carving a new reality of wholeness. The divine glow of potential brightness glistens within mere glass, waiting for us to see.
And now. As our future is being formed, as our destiny unfolds. What will we find at the next station?
Will we be dazzled by the promise of life in its glory and freedom, only to find it has disappeared if looked at from a different perspective, through different lenses? Will we retain our joy, faith, optimism?
Will we see darkness and destruction, brokenness and ashes, or the brightness of opportunities, of life?
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
…..I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
(The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost)
It is the month of Elul, the month of Slichot, in which prayers are recited before dawn. The month in which our soul awakens in the morning to the piercing sound of the shofar.
May we awaken dazzled by the morning, as the hope presented to us by our dreams at night meets the reality of daylight. And may our paths be blessed, as we face the choices and opportunities which life offers to us, today.
Dr. Devorah Ungar is an American-born scientist and musician.who moved to Israel 30 years ago.