“This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.”
For a Reform Jew, the bar for prayer is pretty low. I don’t need tefillin. I am bound to no minyan, and I have my pick of heavily redacted liturgy. A few minutes, a few deep breaths, a few words.
And I want it bad.
Peace, understanding, connection. An overflowing absence of self. That’s prayer.
I settle on a stripped-down Birkot HaShachar, the morning blessings. I’ll say them every morning, I tell myself.
And I do. Except when I don’t.
I start out strong like always, and then my focus bleeds out. I miss a day here and there, then two days in a row, and then I sit and fidget.
Baruch atah YHWH, eloheinu ruach ha-olam, she’asani b’tsalmoh. Blessed are you, oh G-d our G-d, breath of the universe, who created me in G-d’s image.
We can fall so far, end up so low, and never lose the shimmering thread of the divine in all of us. In everything.
I need to remember this every day if I have any hope of living like it’s true.
And then I slip again. A day, two days, three days. I reach out for help, and I find Habitforge. Twenty-one days to a new habit, it tells me.
I sign up, and the next day an e-mail comes: Did you say Birkot HaShachar yesterday?
YES, I Click.
Before I know it, I’m on a roll. I watch those little red balls adding up. Look at me, the Super Jew.
Then one morning I completely forget. And I’m back to zero.
Humbled again. And again. And again. Once I make it up to 14, more than halfway there, then I’m knocked down.
Whoever thought of Habitforge must have been channeling Rabbi Tarfon, who needles me from across the centuries.
“It is not for you to finish the task,” he told his students, “but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Breathe In. Breathe Out.
Baruch atah YHWH, eloheinu ruach ha-olam, she’asani yisra’el. Blessed are you, oh G-d our G-d, breath of the universe, who brought me into this covenant that expands around me the more I struggle.
It’s been months now, and I’m still in the single digits.
Today I begin again. And again.