Ki Tavo teaches us that no matter how focused we might be on the "new" - the ever-present first fruits of our contemporary lives - that we always pause to honor the ones who came before us. The links that we have to our past are precious. We are who we are, today, because of the giants who preceded us: the parents and grandparents who made our existence possible; the teachers and mentors who guide us on our life's journeys; and the friends, colleagues, and peers who travel the same roads as us and who are always present to share the wisdom they've acquired just a step or two ahead of us.
During these weeks leading up to Rosh HaShanah, we often speak of
teshuvah (a Hebrew term that is broadly associated with turning around) in the context of turning around to examine our past transgressions.
This year, I want to invite us to also do a different kind of
teshuvah-turning: looking back into the past, not to dwell on our transgressions, but to focus instead on the many blessings that pervade our lives...and the treasured loved ones who made those blessings possible.
Yes: this is the season when we should be picking up the phone (or going in person) to apologize to the ones we've hurt along the way.
But this is also the season to pick up the phone to acknowledge and say thank you to the ones who have inspired and motivated us...the one who have made all of our "first fruits" possible.
- View a moving reflection by Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer on the power of planting a tree as an expression of grieving and gratitude.
- View the "Ode to Teachers" by the Mexican American poet and writer Pat Mora.
- View an alternative reading of "My father was a wandering Aramaean..."emphasizing Jewish history as a shared, collective narrative and experience.