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Vicki Cabot

Listening and hearing. . .

Sand, sea, sky.
Sand, sea, sky. Photo Vicki Cabot

I hear the universe speaking to me.

The words from a character in a popular Netflex series — one of this summer’s guilty pleasures — run through my mind.

They stay with me, as the high holidays approach, as I find myself serendipitously at the beach as the Hebrew month of Elul arrives.

I walk on the warm sand, listen as the waves whisper, gently lapping the shore, look out as the seemingly endless sea glints in the morning sun, marvel at the expanse of deep blue sky above, breathe in the exhilarating scent of salt air. I glimpse a flock of sand pipers take flight, I watch as the gulls skim over the water, I catch sight of a group of pelicans scavenging.

Where better to be as the last month of the Jewish year comes and with it the period of serious introspection it requires? Where better to reflect on the vastness of the universe, and my own tiny parcel of time and space in it?

It was especially so this year, as those first days of Elul were marked by the threat of a tropical storm that quickly escalated to a hurricane that could wreck havoc on the coast and lay waste to its inlands.

It was a reminder of nature’s immense power and the limits of human endeavor in its wake, of divine might and human frailty. And of our own ineffable smallness.

Humbling, indeed.

And yet, as the storm arrived, as the waves crashed on the rocky shoreline, as the torrential rains came, as the trees blew wildly in the wind, it seemed a fitting overture for the work at hand.

Cheshbon ha nefesh, the rabbis call it. An accounting of the soul. An exercise in self evaluation that asks us to take stock of our actions, our thoughts, our deeds, over the past year. And not only to account for them but to resolve to do better, to seek forgiveness and a fresh start.

So it is that the shofar is blown each morning of the three week period, its piercing sound a spiritual wake up call. So, too, do we recite selichot, prayers of repentance, to make amends for our past misdeeds and prepare for the coming holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and the new year they usher in.

We greet each other “ketivah v’chatima tovah,” may you be written and sealed for good in the book of life, with heightened awareness of life’s vagaries and our own vulnerabilities. And extend wishes to others for a good and sweet year.

So it is that walking on the beach, I sense the magnificence of the world, the wondrous mystery of creation, the divine power beyond me, and the role I am meant to play, its meaning beyond knowing, its imperative simply to be a better person, more loving, more caring, more generous, more patient, more compassionate, more kind.

And to take time to slow down, to walk on the beach, to wriggle my toes in the sand, to look up, to look out, to look in, to just be, to listen to the universe.

And to hear.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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