Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy New Year 5770!

As the day wears on, bright and sunny and energizing, with Lake Washington in my view patterned with speedboat trails...with Mt. Rainier outlined against the horizon and the sky streaked with com trails and feathery clouds, I feel enormous gratitude for being brought to this moment, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.

I'm not only grateful for the usual gifts--which Rabbi Rafael Lapin taught me years ago are better called tools--such as health and family and comfort and living in our most privileged nation, but for the underlying means of perceiving them, that we take for granted moment-to-moment.

With the help of contact lenses--a recent invention--I can see the outlines of the maple leaves tinged with rust, poised to turn russet and brown. With amazingly sophisticated mechanisms, I can taste the complexities of my Starbucks coffee, and adjust the flavorings of the dishes I prepare--Indian curries, sweet salmon marinades, sharp cheeses, tart plums from our own backyard tree.

The dahlias of every hue that were grown in pots on my patio--pointed purple petals, round pom-poms, sunrise mixes whose psychedelic swirls are more creative than artists conceive--are marvels I snip and bring into every room. Like other pleasures, they last only a few days, their magnificence existing only for the joy of my perceptions.

We Jews believe that tonight is the birthday of the world, the day we recognize the source of that as our King.  Simultaneously, our creator is evaluating our purposes, our choices and our futures. This seems odd to me, because I'm constantly aware that life is fragile and fleeting and can stop in a second; clearly God is assessing our worth and value at every turn.  But given the human tendency to chug along tending to the urgent rather than the important, it's probably a good idea to have a day set aside to recognize the obvious.

I wish all my Jewish friends a shana tova u'metuka, a good and sweet New Year 5770, five thousand, seven hundred, seventy years' anniversary of when the first man spoke.  We should use our language to speak only productive, positively-purposed analysis and praise, of each other, of our nation, and of the unlimited bounty that comprises our amazing world.

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