Tools for Elul: Rabbi Sharyn Henry

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"Use three words to describe the purpose of life."

Hmm? I was counting stitches and not exactly paying attention to what Dennis was saying.

"I have to describe the purpose of life with three words for something for work."

My first response was "service." That one came easily and readily. I thought back to a conversation with Don and Molly in which we talked about laundry. (Not sure how the topic came up in our weekly service planning meeting, but it did.) I admitted that I like doing laundry; every Sunday night I know that the members of my family are ready - at least with clean clothes - for the week.

In truth, my world is all about service - and by that, I don't mean just leading prayer services, although that's part of it. By leading prayer, we hope to make time and space available for people to connect with God (in whatever ways work for them), each other, and their highest ideals and dreams for themselves. To be of service feels like the right thing in this world right now - in countless ways.

My next answer was easy, too, although by that time, Dennis was busy with his own list, so I didn't say mine out loud. "Compassion / kindness / rachamim," I thought. Rachamim comes from the same root as the word for "womb," which just feels like a beautiful way to understand one of life's key purposes - caring for and being compassionate to all - human, animal, and our earth.

I didn't immediately come up with a third word, so instead I'll use our High Holy Days theme of "If not now, when." There is a certain urgency right now in our world and in our own communities. There are too many issues to list here... and besides, I invite you to think deeply about what is urgent to you, and then to commit to taking action.

Remember, as we emphasized last year, we don't have to complete the work, but we better get started right now.
-Rabbi Sharyn Henry


Rodef Shalom