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5 Elul 5783

Rabbi Paul Jacobson

The Power to Create

At the very end of the Yom Kippur Neilah service is a passage that begins, “va-anachnu lo neidah mah na-aseh,” a confession to God that says, “And we do not know what to do.”  The passage continues, “ki alecha eyneinu, but our eyes are upon You.”  Incidentally, this passage is also recited every weekday morning in the traditional liturgy, at the end of the Tachanun supplications.  In moments of feeling helpless or powerless, in times without answers, our tradition encourages us to set our eyes upon God to find answers.

Yet Judaism also instructs us to remember that we are partners with God in the repair of our world.  I work with young people and families in communities who might not otherwise have access to therapeutic support. I find myself affected daily by their grit, determination and resilience.  While some individuals express their faith and hope in God, others use their hands.  One young person often reaches for the Play-Doh that I bring with me to our counselling sessions and says, “I like to use this clay because I have the ability to create something.”  Their gaze meets mine, and I follow them into their world, watching their creation take shape.

This holiday season invites us to reflect upon the state of our lives and the state of the world around us.  There is value in using our moments of prayer and introspection to use our eyes and look towards God for answers.  But there is also great courage in looking toward our hands, recognizing how God has endowed us with an empowered capacity to build, create, and nurture a world that, with our combined efforts, can become grounded in goodness and love.

See more Elul Reflections