Here they come again – those great, holy wondrous Days of Awe.
Something about the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur calls us back to ourselves – back to community, back to our souls, back to parts of ourselves that maybe we forgot (or we'd rather forget). Maybe it's changing light of the seasons. Maybe it's music or ancestral memory that grabs our kishkes. Maybe it's something utterly beyond understanding.
Whatever it is, it calls now. How will you hear that call, and how will you answer?
As if to prime us, inspiration comes in this week's Torah portion (Ha'azinu), which is Moses' own call and answer. Moses' "swan song," presaging his own death, are his parting words to his people. Moses begins by calling out (Deut. 32:1) –
Ha'azinu ha-shamayim v'adaberah,
v'tishma ha-aretz imrei-fi!
Listen up, heavens, and I'll speak;
hear, land, the words of my mouth!
Moses invokes heaven and earth as witnesses to his moment of meaning, just as heaven and earth are our witnesses for our own moment of meaning.
Witnesses to what? Cosmic forces aim us to the autumnal equinox and re-balance light and dark. Forces of climate change re-balance sky and sea. Forces of societal change re-balance politics. Everything, it seems, is changing and seeking a new equilibrium – and we might not like what we see.
As above, so below; as beyond, so within. As the world outside shifts on its cosmic, climactic, societal and political axes, we feel inside what is off-balance. If we're paying attention, this time of year calls us to renew inner balance in an off-kilter world.
How? The Hebrew word Ha'azinu is a pun. Literally it means "give ear" (from ozen, "ear"), but colloquially it connotes a scale with weights equally balanced (like our two ears balance our heads). Ha'azinu calls us to re-balance by listening to the call of this moment, to forces of change beyond and within, to the shifting weight of this hour, to heaven and earth straining to hear our response.
The stakes couldn't be higher: our souls, our communities and our world hang in the balance. We start by listening, by giving ear, by internalizing deeply that heaven and earth really are our witnesses. What we do will matter fundamentally in every way to who we are and what our world will be.
In these days of meaning, may each of us summon the courage to listen deeply, act boldly and renew balance for ourselves, each other and the world.
From all of us at The Jewish Studio, shanah tovah tikateivu v'tichateimu – may you and your loved ones be signed and sealed for a year of goodness.
– R. David Evan Markus