This summer I had the great delight of spending time in New Mexico’s hills, listening to the buzz of cicadas, the wind rustling through pinion trees, and the chatter of wrens in the trees. Although the hills seemed unchanging day after day, nothing stayed the same. The snow on the peaks gradually disappeared; the cholla cactus plants burst into bloom and disappeared in a week’s time; a beautiful vine sheltering our deck suddenly wilted and died one day – a reminder of Jonah’s gourd, perhaps?
And so it is with us – change is constant, but some are visible and some imperceptible.
As the summer begins to wind down, our thoughts are turning to the High Holidays. It’s our annual opportunity to spend some time together noticing changes – the obvious ones and the subtle ones — both in our lives and in the widening circles of life all around us. An opportunity to tune in to what we have missed noticing in the busy lives we are privileged to lead. An opportunity to attend to the ways in which we are growing older, the ways our loved ones are maturing and changing, the ways our environment is changing in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
This is the understanding of the world that our sages taught – that each day the world is created and recreated anew. Change is the way of the world – and so is the potential for renewal. Our rabbis asked us to notice the world around us, and to bless God for the good and the bad – for every drop of rain, whether it was life-giving or destructive.
So as we begin our preparations for High Holidays, let us take moments aside to give thanks “for all these things,” the bitter and the sweet, difficult times and beautiful moments, losses and hardship but also triumphs and love. Al kol eleh, the beautiful song by Naomi Shemer, will be our theme for these High Holidays — for all these things, the honey and the stinger both, we give thanks and recognize how precious they are, how fleeting and how real.
Al Kol Eleh / For All These Things
Trans. from Naomi Shemer
For the honey and the stinger
For the bitter and the sweet —
And for our precious baby daughter
Please, God, watch over them all.
Over the flames that burn
Over water that runs clear
And the man from distant places
For all these things,
over all these things,
Please, God, watch over them for good —
the honey and the stinger
the bitter and the sweet.