Today the World was Born

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, August 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

How do we prepare in advance for the High Holidays? I have several books that I turn to and re-read again and again over the years. Those include the classic “Days of Awe” by Shmuel Yosef Agnon, one of the great Hebrew writers of the 20th century; and “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Rabbi Alan Lew, among others. I have music of the season that I like to listen to. And this year, as in years past, I have turned once again to one of my favourite videos.

I was first introduced to this video ten years ago:

It is a ten-minute TED Talk and documentary clip by time-lapse photographer and nature cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg. If you do nothing else in preparation for the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe) this year, do yourself a favour: set aside 10 uninterrupted minutes to view it. I hope you will find it as inspiring as I do.

Very soon(!) we will welcome the new year of 5782. Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, and it’s our opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. In many ways, the Days of Awe are about paying attention to all that we experience and being awake and aware. Schwartzberg’s video reveals the awesome beauty in the world we live in and opens us up to the connections that are present in our worlds – our inner worlds and our outer worlds in ways that we may not always notice. The High Holidays remind us to stop and notice, to S’hma – listen, pay attention – with all of our senses to all that is. In the midst of the joys of life we also experience struggle and pain. We make mistakes, we have regrets. A life review, encouraged at this time of year, is not just about the ways we may have missed the mark or healing from pain. It is also about finding the gifts in the small moments of today.

Hayom (Today!) is one of the major themes of the High Holidays. In our prayers we declare “Hayom harat olam” – Today the world was born. We sing these words right after the dramatic blowing of the shofar. At the close of morning services we sing “Hayom t’amtzeinu, Hayom t’varcheinu , Hayom t’gadleinu” Today give us strength, Today give us blessing, Today raise us up.

The video culminates in a tribute to “today”. Today is a gift. This video reminds us of that simple truth. Especially this year, it’s a gift worthy of our attention. Here’s the link again to watch:

I look forward to sharing the High Holidays with you.

L’Shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

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