From Tree Stories, A Collection of Extraordinary Encounters: “Think Like a Tree” by Karen I. Shragg
Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first sings of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling
Be still long enough during these days of awe to hear our own deeds reflected in those around us. Help us understand our impact on the life unfolding around us and embrace the uplift of Rosh Hashanah and the challenge of Yom Kippur.
The Akedah Revisited
The Akedah narrative - one of the great Master Stories of the Jewish textual tradition - tells the story of the binding of Isaac on an alter by his father Abraham in response to a request from God. It is a fast-paced narrative of events: Abraham’s readiness, setting out for Mount Moriah; the child’s question, “Where is the ram for the burnt offering?”; the father’s answer that God will provide, the binding of Isaac itself, the vision of the angel admonishing Abraham not to harm the boy; and the appearance in the brambles of a ram caught by the horns. Teaching us further on this piece of our history, the great Israel poet, Chaim Gouri wrote the following poem entitled, Yerusha - Inheritance:
The ram came last of all; And Abraham did not know that it was the answer to the question of the boy, who is his foremost strength at the twilight of his life.
The old mane raised his head; When he saw he was not dreaming a dream, and an angel was standing by, the sacrificial knife fell from his hand.
The boy, released from his bonds, saw his father’s back.
Isaac, as recounted, was not offered up in sacrifice. He lived a long time, experience the good, until the light of his eyes grew dim.
Nonetheless, that hour he bequeathed to his descendants, an inheritance. They are born and the sacrificial knife is in their hearts.
Not more than a month ago, some of us studied this powerful text and this connected poem. We dove deeply into the meaning of this troubling text. I was overwhelmed with great learning from our community. I have always read that last line of the poem as the ways in which we, as Jews, are almost always sacrificed - interpret as you wish. But, my point has been that we are all Isaac, we are all the descendants with that ma’achelet - sacrificial knife in our hearts. Yet, one of our community, Sandy, taught us it is more. She said: We all are almost always Abraham. In other words, we are both the sacrificed and the one holding the implement of destruction…how will we hear this story this year? Will we see ourselves as being forced to make sacrifices? Or, will we be the one holding the implement?