Recently, I was told its name is Joe Pye Weed. But since I’ve been living in Asheville, I know it to be the wildflower that bursts forth each year to tell me I’d better get a move on and write my High Holy Day sermons. I had to laugh when I learned that Joe Pye Weed was a Native American medicinal plant named after a Mohegan sachem, healer, from Massachusetts, known for its sweat inducing properties, which apparently is conducive to healing typhus. I just look at it and start to perspire!
In all seriousness, these weeks of deep reflection during Elul are full of awe and dread for me. Will my messages speak to the deepest yearnings of your hearts? Will I be able to communicate something of the deepest yearnings of my heart? And when all is said and done, will our hearts collectively open wider?
It is only the day after Tisha B’Av as I write this column, still a full 7 weeks away from having to commit anything to paper, thank goodness. My aim, as always, will not be to stand on a bully pulpit (literally) and present what Judaism says and have that be the last word, or try to make you believe as I do. When the time comes, I will humbly offer you messages I feel you need to hear with the hopes that it will open your minds and hearts. But more importantly, that it will inspire you to continue the conversation, with one another and with me because that is where the richer truth will emerge.
A thousand years ago, the rabbis imagined the Israelites had to chase down God’s revelation at Mount Sinai and that it was anything but easy:
“When the Holy One of Blessing gave the Torah at Sinai…[He] would speak and the voice would go out and travel the whole world: Israel would hear the voice coming to them from the South and they would run to the South to meet the voice; and from the South, it would switch for them to the North, and they would all run to the North; and from the North, it would switch to the East and they would run to the East; and from the East it would switch to the West and they would run to the West; and from the West it would switch [to come] from the heavens; and they would suspend their eyes [to the heavens] and it would switch [to come] from the earth , and they would stare at the earth… Rabbi Yochanan said the voice would go out and divide into seventy voices for the seventy languages…”
I’m grateful to these wise minds who invited us to pattern our own search for truth similarly: as coming in many forms and requiring us to leave where we are to find and hear it.
I look forward to celebrating our 12th holy season together.