As the moon wanes to a sliver and the old year ends, I want to thank those who guide us in all walks of life.
The rabbis read Elul, the current Hebrew month, as an acronym for two biblical verses. (Sadly, this doesn’t work in English.)
The first is ‘Ani ledodi vedodi li – I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ They took this as the love between God and the soul.
God is infinite. But in practice God comes to us in many shapes and sizes. None of us knows how the spirit touches the hearts of others. Therefore, I want to thank everyone who helps us perceive the holy in anything and everything.
Thank you to the teachers and youth leaders who understand how to draw out of every child what is special and sacred and enable that uniqueness to become a light for others.
Thank you to Eleanor O’Hanlon for her book, Eyes of the Wild, about how in the ‘spaciousness of nature, we find our own expansiveness again… And that space is not separate from Eternal Presence, holding all life as one and allowing it to be – growing, blossoming, dying and reemerging in all its manifold diversity and grace.’
Thank you to the team in that tiny bird reserve between the Supreme Court and the Knesset in Jerusalem, who measure the length of small birds’ wings before releasing them from their carefully cupped hands. You show that these lives too are holy.
Thank you to those of all faiths who see beyond the dogmas of their creed and know that God is in all life everywhere.
You bring God into our hearts. You curb our cruelty and deepen our compassion.
The second of the Elul verses comes from Esther: ‘Ish lere’ehu, umattanot la’evyonim, – Each for their fellow, and gifts to the needy.’
I’m grateful to everyone who shows us how to be present for our fellow human beings, family, friends, community, people we encounter by chance.
I’m grateful for everyone like the friend who simply said, ‘I’m on my way,’ when I called in a panic, ‘I need a lift with my dog to the vet, this moment, now.’ I’m grateful to those with the gift for thoughtful words, kind, insightful, with a lightness of touch. I’m grateful for those who listen, enabling the quietness that calms the heart.
I’m grateful to all who fight for the rights of others, who won’t yield to indifference, carelessness or rudeness, who call out bigotry and bullying. I’m grateful to everyone who helps create encompassing, compassionate community. Thank you for showing us what ‘Each for their fellow’ truly means. You deepen our humanity.
‘Gifts for the needy’ may sound patronising. But who knows which of us will be needy over time? This isn’t about reaching down but reaching out, to those whose lot has fallen more cruelly than ours on earth.
I’m grateful to all who refuse to walk pass hunger, who ensure foodbanks remain stocked. I’m grateful to that postman in whose van we caught a lift years ago, who stopped at every house in the long, remote road saying ‘If I don’t check on these elderly folk, who will?’
I’m grateful to Sally Hayden who records in My Fourth Time We Drowned, how she took that first unanticipated call from tormented refugees, subject to blackmail and rape, and became their lifeline, their sole electronic pathway towards liberty. I’m grateful to the lawyers, journalists, takers of video clips, who risk their lives exposing inhumane policies and brutal regimes. You live the meaning of integrity and truth.
How urgently we need you all, teachers and guides, because, as we pray on Rosh Hashanah, the fate of the world is in the balance.