I was honored to be asked to speak at the Rosh Hashanah services of Olney Kehila this year. Below is the text of the “drash” I gave.
I am really honored to be here with you all today. My family seems to have a growing and wonderful connection with Olney Kehila. Not only is Holly, a friend, teacher, and mentor, but my husband crafted the wonderful ark that houses your community’s Torah. I’ve enjoyed services here in the past and just love what a friendly and welcoming congregation this is. One thing, in particular, that’s struck me in the past is the amazing kids you have here. I watch them get so engaged with the songs and chants,and I remember meeting one Bat Mitzvah student a couple of years ago who was working on some project that I can’t even fathom having the maturity to have done when I was twelve.
Elul is a month of preparation. It’s a month to continue healing from Av, but mostly it’s about preparing for the Yamim Noraim (ים נוראים) – The Days of Awe. The symbol of the month is Cattle, which I guess we could interpret a lot of different ways, but I want to offer a specific interpretation for the PunkTorah community in preparing for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot (aforementioned Days of Awe).
Elul is a month of preparation for Rosh Hashanah — at least in modern Judaism. It’s interesting then, that the first of Elul is the “New Year of Cattle.” In ancient Israel it’s the time when the cattle were counted and tithed. Cows are mentioned from time-to-time in the Tanakh and other scripture — think about the seven cows (פָּרוֹת) of Pharoah’s dream (Gen 41), the bullock (בָּקָר) regularly sacrificed, and of course the golden calf (עֵגֶל) that got us into a lot of trouble.
Considering this, you’d expect there to be several entries in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols about cows, calves, bulls, and cattle. But the only one there seems to be the one about the Golden Calf.
Tammuz 5772 begins at sundown on June 20, 2012 and ends at sundown July 19, 2012.
Tammuz is another one of those months with no holidays, except for a minor fast, and no real practices associated with it. At least not any I’ve found. This makes a lot of sense when you think of the Jewish wheel of the year in relationship to agrarian cycles. The summer months are when there is too much work to be done in the fields sowing, tilling, planting and harvesting. Even though there isn’t a specific practice that we can associate with Tammuz, there is a theme. It’s vision and eye sight. Tammuz is a month that challenges us to really see what’s in front of us and focus.
If vision is the theme, then eyes are the symbol.
The practice for Tammuz then, is to see. Open your eyes. Look at the world around you this summer. Take in all the color, the wonder, the humor, the magick and mystery of the summer as it unfolds. Notice things you’ve just walked past before. See the beauty in everything, from graffiti to the most luscious garden.