August 30, 2018
Two Truths in Our Pocket
Did you take a trip this summer to a location that awed and wowed you? That feeling of standing before a wonder of nature like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, or Yosemite Falls can evoke two different feelings simultaneously and powerfully. We sense at once both how small we are and how incredibly blessed to be part of the greater whole.
That is the kind of feeling that our Days of Awe were intended to awaken within us, and that is the source of my theme for these upcoming holidays. Each year on the High Holy Days, I seek an over-arching theme to help organize my sermons, remarks, and even some of the songs led by Cantor Abbe Lyons.
This year, 5779, I will focus on two favorite sayings of Rabbi Simcha Bunem, an 18th-century Hassidic teacher. It is said that Reb Simcha carried two slips of paper, one in each pocket. On one was inscribed, "For my sake the world was created." On the other he wrote, "I am but dust and ashes." He would take out and read each slip of paper as necessary for the moment. My friend Rabbi David Zaslow who, with his wife Debra, was our guest at PCS this spring, commissioned a company to make wooden coins with one of these sayings on each side, and they will be available for you to take on the holidays as a reminder to contemplate the messages of this season.
I think that the two sayings on this coin mesh perfectly with the themes of Rosh Hashanah (the creation of the world and celebration of our lives) and Yom Kippur (the reminder and enactment of our mortality). By holding the two sayings in tension, we can appreciate our lives even more deeply, while experiencing a sense of humility and humanity that opens us to others. (On the second day of Rosh Hashanah we will have a short Torah study/discussion on where the two sayings come from.)
I have been pondering these two sayings for a long time, and they are often evoked for me in nature. Here are a couple of posts that I wrote on my Wellsprings of Wisdom website that I hope you will enjoy:
I would love to learn what personal experiences these sayings mean to you, and look forward to exploring with you in the upcoming season.
Wishing everyone L’shanah Tovah Tikateyvu ve-Techateymu! May you be inscribed and sealed for a Good and Sweet New Year!
Rabbi Julie and Avraham Danan