See What is Before You

See the path of your life.  Really see it.  What do you see?  Do you like what you see?  If not, what readiness do you need to change it?

This week's Torah portion (Dvarim) heralds the approach of Tisha b'Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple and countless other tragedies in Jewish history.  It also heralds Shabbat Chazon, the coming Shabbat before Tisha b'Av named for this week's Haftarah portion (Isaiah 1:1-1:27), which begins with Isaiah's Chazon (vision) about dire consequences of poor life choices. 

We might be forgiven for seeing here mostly doom and gloom: after all, we're approaching the Black Sabbath (not the rock band, but the darkest moment of the Jewish year). Doom and gloom have their place, but there also is light: Tisha b'Av carries also the kernel of liberation, the breaching of inner walls that make new journeys and freedoms possible.  As Leonard Cohen so poignantly wrote in his song Anthem, "There's a crack in everything: that's how the light gets in."

What we're called to see is light – even and especially light amidst the doomsayers, darkness and destructions that are inevitable parts of life. We're called to see the true reality of our lives, beyond the walls, unprotected by walls, freed from walls.  We're called to see the path before us and begin again, like the journeys recounted in this week's Torah portion, to get up from our doldrums and go.

But go where?  Desert journeys we recall in this week's Torah portion are long past, but we recall them now as metaphor for our journey of the next seven weeks, between now and Rosh Hashanah – a mirror-image of the seven weeks between Passover (liberation) and Shavuot (revelation).  Once again, like our desert forebears, we can journey from narrowness to expansiveness, from darkness to light, from brokenness to a new wholeness.  The journey will take effort, but the effort is the purpose of the journey.

That is the deep meaning of this week of preparation, this moment of seeing clearly the path stretching before us.  May your vision be clear as we ready for this journey anew.

Rabbi David Evan Markus