Last year, my most meaningful Rosh Hashanah experience occurred at the beach. The day before Rosh Hashanah, my husband and I went searching for something at the seashore. We walked in the sand and gazed at the waves and lost ourselves in our own private moment.
When we made the decision to give up on our busy schedule and travel to the beach, I had no real agenda. I knew that I needed inspiration. The month of Elul that precedes the High Holidays is meant to be a time of introspection and repentance. Tradition has it that our Creator is easily found in the fields. In fact Elul is an acronym in Hebrew for our relationship with God during the holiday season, Ani LeDode V’Dode Le – I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me. Typically I find myself too busy and too distracted with the everyday in life to “go out into the fields.” Thus the holiest days of the year fall upon me suddenly and I am left wanting.
I am a Jungian psychologist and I am always reaching to become a spiritually inspired Jew. I long for and search for the symbolic and meaningful in the corners of our existence. It is not always easy and when I work too hard, I miss the mark. Again and again I am reminded that the “still small voice” presents itself in the simple moments. Last year, before Rosh Hashanah, as I dipped my toes in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea, I captured a moment of inspiration that helped carry me through synagogue and communal prayer.
Perhaps the inspiration was helped along by my childhood. I grew up along the banks of Lake Michigan. I accompanied my parents and my friends to the beach and I played and built in the sand. To this day, I am soothed and inspired by water and sand. I love the waves. I am often propelled to take off my shoes and lose my toes in the ebb and flow of the water. I can think and clear my head and create on the banks of the deep.
Yet, there is something more. What was unique about my Rosh Hashanah experience? The water of the Mediterranean brought me in close dialogue with two important aspects of our Creator. As I stared into the distance, I found myself in awe of the majesty and power of the g waves. I am somewhat frightened and very respectful of strong waters that can destroy and even kill. I reflected upon the masculine aspects of our Creator, the Holy One Blessed be He, who rules the world. The power, like the waves is awe inspiring and a bit frightening. Rosh Hashanah is a time to come to grips with the powers in this world; the power of our Creator and likewise the God-given power we have to destroy and create, to soothe and injure. During this season, we are invited and chided to ask difficult questions about our partnership with God. Can we build and create and make the world a better place? Can we stand up for the pillars of ethical monotheism and bring godliness into the world?
Yet, I also averted my gaze from the powerful waves and looked down. The waters that encircled my feet danced around me. I reflected upon the ocean as an image and reminder of the Schechinah, the more feminine presence of God that soothed and fed my tired feet.
To me, symbolically the great waters of the deep are both masculine and feminine. There is an “ein sof”; never ending-ness to the depths of it all. The water has the power to destroy and rebirth and destroy again. God is powerful and nurturing and so many other endless things to all of us. Too often we become lost in the traditional foods and the rules and the words of the prayer. And sometimes our true dialogue with God gets lost.
My husband recently reminded me of a Chassidic story. A young boy was asked where God is to be found. The child answered, “Where is God not found?” God is found in the fields and in the waves. God is found in the synagogue and at the holiday table. God is found when we help an elderly lady across the street or comfort a crying baby. But perhaps most of all, God is found inside of us in the “still small voice.” Sometimes we must find powerful waves. And sometimes we have to seek out peace and quiet and personal inspiration to hear the voice above the noise of daily life.
I think I will try going back to the sea this year. It may not be the same, but I am not sure I want it to be. During the holiday season we traditionally recite the Schechanu prayer in which we thank God for bringing us once again to this season. Each Schechanu reminds us to find the newness in this particular season.
Maybe you will write and let me know where you found godliness this holiday season. No matter what – don’t forget to enjoy the honey cake too!
Dr. Robin Zeiger received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1985 from the University of Illinois. She works in private practice as a Jungian psychologist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org