Lessons from a fallen leaf

On a recent camping trip ( first vacation since...you know),I found a fallen leaf. Not an unusual occurrence in a woodland setting! Yet, this leaf was different from any leaf I'd ever seen before. It wasn't a leaf that had been blown off in a storm, but still green. It wasn't even a  premature autumn leaf. No,this leaf was golden and threadbare, like vintage lace, or filigree. The network which had supported the leaf in its time was still clearly discernible, yet none of the leaf itself was left except for its underlying structure.

Seeing the beauty of the leaf's underpinning made me think about a story which is often told at Jewish funerals. Perhaps you know the one about the two ships?  The one that is being sent off on its first voyage, and the one which comes safely back to shore? A blessing is pronounced upon the ship's safe return, because one can see where it has been, all the places it visited, even the storms it has weathered, but finally, it can rest.

We are in the Jewish month of Elul, which is a time for both celebration and reflection. We celebrate with joy (rinah) and look ahead prayerfully (tefillah), as in the piyyut* whose refrain is "Lishmo'a el ha rinah v'el ha t'fillah".  We are celebrating having made it through another year (and oh, what a year!) and reflecting upon the lessons we will take forward. One year, someone may compare us to a leaf like the one I mentioned above. Hopefully, they will focus not on the fact that we will have fallen, but upon what remains, and how beautiful, connected, and meaningful our lives had been.

Amen, ken y'hi ratzon (May it be the Divine will).

Yael Fischman, www.renaissancewomankippot.org

* A piyyut is a prayer written in the form of a poem "Lishmo'a el ha rina v'el ha- tefillah is the refrain to a piyyut recited on Selichot,which (usually) takes place the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashanah


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