Monday, August 20, 2012

Driving Inward

Parashat Re'eh
August 17, 2012~29 Av 5772
Rabbi Jen Gubitz

Inching forward
the car came to a halting stop
30 plus feet before the yellow light,
leaving a gaping two car length space
at the intersection
of Boston Post Road and Cochituate.

I was annoyed. 
We both could’ve made that light.
With less than 30 minutes to
run out between meetings,
at one of the slowest intersections in Wayland,
every minute counts.

At the same time,
I felt incredibly empathetic
for the drivers of this car,
for atop of it,
on the side,
and in the rear,
emblazoned in large, bold text,
were the words:
STUDENT DRIVER.

My own drivers ed experience
occurred in a 1988 blue
Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra,
my first car,
shared with my older brother,
and with a drivers ed instructor
who taught all 3 Gubitz kids to drive...
Don would take us on I-69,
drive about 20 miles south
towards Indianapolis,
stop for a snack,
and then drive back.
That initial fear of stopping, starting,
and certainly merging
onto the highway stays with me today.
Looking over my shoulder so many times,
that he had to remind me -
don’t forget to look in front, too, Jennifer.
Gently saying -
I’ve got your blind spot, sweetheart,
don’t you worry.

**
Don’t forget to look in front, too...
he would say...
but I was keenly aware,
that in a car hurtling forward
65 miles an hour...
I would have to learn
to look backward and forward at the same time...

As one becomes a better driver, however,
she learn to check over her shoulder
much more quickly...
a short turn of the neck,
he learns to rely on peripheral vision
and other mirrors which provide a fuller picture of the landscape,
or perhaps there is a passenger next to you...
who can get your blindspot...

We are at the moment
in our Jewish calendar
where our driving skills
have much to teach us.
Eleven months passed,
but one month ahead until Rosh Hashanah,
it is a moment where
more of this year is
visible in the rearview mirror,
than through the dash.
A moment
where we may strain our necks,
as we look over our shoulders,
at those images which become smaller and smaller...

We see
all of the miles covered...
all of the far off places we have traversed...
all of the people with whom we have traveled... 
and we notice the various strips of highway..
that need roadwork..
the people, experiences, and ideas
that did not fill our tanks...
but rather drained our batteries...

And as we find ourselves looking backward...
our Torah gives us a gift
this week.
“Look!” 
It shouts out to us.
“Re’eh!”
Pay attention! 

It offers us a yellow traffic light...
slow down...
 רְאֵה, אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם--הַיּוֹם:  בְּרָכָה, וּקְלָלָה
“Re'eh anochi noten lifneychem hayom berachah uklalah.”
Look! 
Re’eh!
I am placing before you today blessings and curses...
Look,
see,
vision,
review,
notice,
perceive...

but the Torah,
and the Hebrew month of Elul
beginning Sunday
are not pushing us
to look only backward or forward...
rather inward...
slow down...the torah tells us...
cheshbon hanefesh...elul gently pushes us...
audit your soul...
take an account of all the blessings, gifts, gratitude
take an account of all the curses, challenges, pain...

Be it prayer, meditation, vacation,
exercise, counseling, singing...
dancing, breathing, being...
make time this month to reflect...
make time this month to renew...
make time this month to return...
to your most highest form of self...

Driver’s ed cars have a special feature...
on the passenger side...
to prevent collision...
an extra break...
an extra pair of eyes...
let this month of Elul be for you...
that extra break...
that extra pair of eyes.

This month is a gift of blessing and curses...
if used wisely, it will reveal to us all the good in our lives...
and if used wisely,
it will reveal all that is less than good...
But by noticing both,
and adjusting the speed,
modifying the fuel,
tightening a safety belt...
by looking inward,
we might each find the capacity
to glance backward with gratitude for all of our journeys...
in order to envision a forward
in ways we never thought possible...

O source of journeys,
may the tiniest of refinements
allow the road to take us places we’ve not yet traveled...

Amen.