Aug 12, 2010

It's Art, It's Renewal:
Jewels of Elul

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.

It's Day 3 of Elul, Do You Know Where Your Apples & Honey Are?

The inspiration for this post, "The Art of Beginning ... Again," gives me a very literalist punch, and I hate being a literalist (don't tell the rabbis), but I can't help it; art has always been the gas in the automobile of life for me (nice, eh?). When I think about art, it's a frenzied, frenetic examination of emotions and thoughts splattered together onto one ginormous canvas. The canvas, for some, is literally a canvas. For others its a wall or a newsprint page or a spiral-bound notebook. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an artist, the traditional kind with pencils and charcoal and clean white sheets of paper filled with images of people and plants and animals and life. I figured out in high school that that dream wasn't necessarily realistic because my emotions had started to plant their feet in the written word. In college, still, I found words the most beautiful art out there, and I began, again, in the form of spoken word -- slam poetry. I discovered a power in words I'd never known before, and then slowly they seeped back onto the page in the form of this blog. My new canvas. The art, then, is life, and the canvas, is this blog. Every time I sit to write a new blog post, it's as if I'm planning the next great masterpiece, the work that will catch every reader's heart and pull. My thoughts, frenzied and frenetic still, find their way onto new avenues each day, with each post, in the form of Judaism. Jewish thought. Israel. Judaism in academia. Jewish food, observance, quirks. The art is ... beautiful.

I've discovered that this art of mine allows me to begin again each and every day, or sometimes twice a week, or sometimes less often -- life, you know, gets in the way of art. But I consider myself blessed. I don't have to wait until Elul each year to reflect and learn from my every-step in life. Like many bloggers in this series, I went back and looked at all of my past Elul posts over the four years of this blog, and the funny thing is that I really get into Elul. Although, shouldn't I? I've had more beginnings and start-agains in my life than I can count. More schools and homes and addresses and cities and friends and religious awakenings than can easily be enumerated here. And, of course, there's the two conversions I pushed myself through, which are ultimate steps in teshuvah (repentance, or returning) that only begin when steps are taken out of the mikvah. I look at every day as a chance for renewal, reevaluation, a reconsideration of who I am and where I'm going, based largely on where I've been, who I've touched, and how I've moved others to move myself.

This blog, for me, makes that happen. You, the readers, who constantly push and question and -- yes, sometimes -- infuriate me, make considering me possible. And, of course, there's always the text in my banner (שמע יי קולי אקרא וחנני וענני) that comes from Psalm 27, which Jews the world-over read every morning of Elul, that translates very roughly (and colloquially) as "Hey, G-d, I'm calling out, so be gracious to me, hear me, answer me!" Elul, then, is like one big, ginormous (man I love that word) experience of renewal and questioning, turning toward G-d and G-d turning toward us. It's like the last chance to ask yourself where you're going and who you are and what you want to be in the new year.

But if there's one thing I've learned about renewal and fresh starts, about beginning again, it's that it isn't a once-a-year occurrence. At least, it shouldn't be. Jews are blessed with the big holiday- and reflection-filled months of Elul and Tishrei where we ask for forgiveness, reflect on ourselves and our pasts and future, and ultimately get written into that big book of life or death that G-d keeps tugged away (surely) in his jeans pocket. And it's important to artfully and carefully extend ourselves, especially during Elul. But every day, every word that escapes our mouths, every step we take, every conversation we have, they're all chances for renewal and fresh starts. It's never not a good time to consider who you are, where you've been, and how you're going to move forward.

Happy renewal, folks. Use your own art as a form of exploration and expression, and let me know how it turns out in 5771.

Also: If you're interested in reading a few of my Elul blog posts, click on the year and you'll be transported to Chaviva of Years Gone By! 2009 AND 2006


Hadassah said...


Phyllis Sommer said...

wonderful. thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for inspiring me to write also!

Shabbat Shalom!


Jack Steiner said...

Nicely done.

Rivki Silver said...

So nice! "It's never not a good time to consider who you are, where you've been, and how you're going to move forward." Can I please put this on my fridge? It's wonderful!

David Tzohar said...

It's great that you find blogging a way to express your spirituality. But may I suggest that blogging is really an outward oriented expression and as such may actually keep you back from finding your real self. Along with blogging serious introspection is just as important for anyone on a spiritual search. Of course all of this is nothing if it is not based on Torah, and Torah must be learned before it can be experienced. As a woman you are not commanded to learn Torah for its own sake but I learned from my rabbanim that since women are commanded the mitzvah of ahavat Hashem any learning that they do is part of that commandment. There are less than 40 days left until Yom Kippur it's Ellul, haMelech basadeh look deep inside yourself and you will be able to go out and meet him.
See my last blogpost for how davenning fits into this

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Thank you all for the comments!

@Rivki Of course :)

@DavidTzohar You might be surprised to know, but I probably know more Talmud and Torah than most of the women you know. After all, I am a student of Judaic Studies and, as such, regularly study Midrash, Tanakh, Talmud, you name it. I love stumping others with what I know about certain aspects of Torah. Believe me, Torah-learning is something that I cherish, and I try to do more of it with each passing year. If you search my archives, you'll find countless blog posts on the parshiot, too!

David Tzohar said...

I am also a former Jewish studies major. I was on my way to a M.A. in Jewish history when I realized that academe was "alma d'shikra", that the academic search for truth is a sham. I had to unlearn all the midrash Talmud and Jewish Philosophy that I had learned in four years of university.
The important thing is to have a Rav that you can learn from and bring your questions to. BTW are you Litvaks? From your haircoverin I assume you aren't Chabadnikim. Not that it really matters. I'm just curious.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@David Actually we're neither Litvak nor Chabadnikim. We're just Orthodox :) I hope you like my most recent post that gets back to the Torah (with a dash of Rashi!).

Post a Comment

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes Powered by Blogger | DSW printable coupons