Parashat Nitzavim/Vayeileh

Friday, September 11, 2020 /22 Elul, 5780
Parashat Nitzavim/Vayeileh Deuteronomy 29:9–31:30

Dear Friends,

This morning Elul Reflections came to an end. I’m sorry to see it go. For the past 29 days, we have listened to moving stories and recollections. We have seen phenomenal artwork and heard original music. We have received reflections on forgiveness, courage, and resilience.

My biggest challenge with the Elul project is that there were not enough days; there were so many people I had wanted to ask to share their stories and thoughts. I look forward to including many of them next year. (If you are interested in participating in next year’s reflections, please let me know!)

These are the presentations which rounded out our four weeks of learning and preparing for the holy days ahead:

On Saturday, we were inspired by the words of Charmante Bazula, Susan and Bill Brook’s semi-adopted daughter. Charmante shares her story of resilience and strength. At the age of 5, she was orphaned because of the horrors of war in the Congo. She has no pictures of her parents; she knows nothing about her origins. She talks about her upbringing, her goals, and her dreams. Above all, she discusses how she works to uplift people who, like her, have faced hardship and challenge.

On Sunday, Katin Sarner talked courageously about her struggles with anorexia nervosa, and how the words of one woman inspired a spark in her that enables her to fight this terrible disease every day. Her story of strength is essential to hear, both to understand anorexia better and to reflect on the impact we can have when we share our stories with others.

Monday, we heard from Rivka Chandra, who spoke about how she has been preparing for the High Holy Days. From creating a sacred space in her home to journaling to finding time for uninterrupted prayer, Rivka sets a model for how we might find our prayerful opportunities throughout this High Holy Day season.

Maura Lowenstein was our presenter on Tuesday. She offered a story and allegory about the ways that we respond to challenges in this world. Her words give us all some food for thought.

Sanford Abramowitz spoke on Wednesday about how an experience of learning about a neighbor’s faith brought his family closer to their own.

On Thursday, Karyn Zafran spoke to the resilience her daughter has as a college student during the pandemic. Although we all have moments of frustration and challenge, Karyn’s words remind us of just how strong we are, and how capable we are at adapting.

Finally, this morning we heard a reflection from our educator, Randi Sher, who spoke about a transformational, out of the box educational experience that she thinks about to this day. In so doing, she encourages all of us to find the blessings in the uncomfortable. There we often find the most opportunity for growth and inspiration.

I hope you have enjoyed this Elul series as much as I have. I look forward to ushering in a new year with each of you this evening.

Shanah Tova!
Rabbi Cassi Kail