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25 Elul 5783

Rabbi Aviva Kipen

Progressive Judaism Victoria

Judaism UnBound is an initiative centred on finding new ways to “do” Judaism for those unaffiliated or disgruntled. It has programs like the “UnYeshiva” and for some years has run “Elul UnBound” podcast series. Listening on line to my friend Wendie Bernstein-Lash (San Francisco) in discussion with Rabbi Lex Rofeberg (Rhode Island) about what is radical in Elul, I wondered about the images of being bound and unbound.

Immediately Abraham and Isaac sprang to mind (Mishkan T’Shuvah, Rosh Hashanah p164-5). As we read on Rosh ha’Shanah, the two men (ha’na’ar means youth or lad but we know Isaac was already an adult) carried the wood, the knife and the fire for sacrificing an offering. We know that there was an ambiguous exchange between father and son, in which Abraham assures Isaac that God would “provide the lamb for the offering, my son”. Torah does not describe how Avraham got the message across to Yitzchak to lie down and be bound.

Though we swiftly jump to the reprieve and the shofar of the ram that was ultimately sacrificed, the issue of our continuing to be bound is the one at the heart of our teshuvah, our return to core. As we reflect on the nearness of 5784, how do we seek to be bound to a vibrant commitment that enriches us and all the world? How can we face the threatening, the dangerous, the re-emergence of dark forces,  and use our inner spiritual work to inform how we go forward as individuals and as communities? What does being “bound up in the bonds of life” in this world signify for us and how shall we do it?

See more Elul Reflections