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Elul Reflections: 19 Elul 5779

Recently the Asian UPJ teens met up in Bali. It was a magical place, even in the midst of the city, once you got off the touristy streets. Everywhere there were Hindu temples, and even within each family compound small temples were maintained and offerings made. At the gate of each compound stood a statue of Ganesha, the god of doorways, beginnings and the remover of obstacles. Ganesha is portrayed as an elephant with four arms.

My memories of Bali’s many images of Ganesha also call to mind the following story, found in the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions.

Once a King brought six blind men together and asked them to determine what an elephant was like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who felt a leg said: "The elephant is like a pillar"; the one who felt the tail said: "The elephant is like a rope"; the one who felt the trunk said: "The elephant is like a tree branch"; the one who felt the ear said "The elephant is like a hand fan"; the one who felt the belly said: "The elephant is like a wall"; and the one who felt the tusk said: "The elephant is like a solid pipe." Each one insisted that they alone were correct. The king then explained to them: "All of you are right. Each one of you described a different truth about the elephant."

The world will be a healthier place when we realise that we only have a very small piece of the puzzle, and that there are many truths, many ways to describe and experience that which is beyond any description or experience. These are good thoughts as we move towards the High Holy Days.

-- Rabbi David A. Kunin, Jewish Community of Japan, Tokyo

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