A Pause in the Journey

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;

But life is a journey.

A going, a growing from stage to stage:

From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;

From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.

From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.

From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,

From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.

From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;

From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,

But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;

But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,

Made stage by stage…To life everlasting.

(Birth is a Beginning, by Alvin Fine)

This is one of my favorite poems.  The author lays out the experiences of any human life, the good, the bad, the joy and the tragedy, all part of our journey.

Perfect words for this season of the High Holidays, in which we are given an opportunity to pause and take a step back from our journey, to reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’d like to go.

This reflection has a name: Teshuva, or repentance.  Literally, Teshuva means returning, understood as the process by which we return to a path of righteousness after having gone astray.  We recount our deeds of the past year, considering whom we might have hurt or slighted, where and when we made mistakes.  Making amends, righting any wrongs, clearing up any misunderstandings is part of the path of teshuvah.  And then, we resolve to do better in the coming year, breaking with old habits, making necessary changes in our behavior and attitudes.  The process of teshuvah, leads to an adjustment of our spiritual compass.

Our Teshuvah begins in the month of Elul, just prior to Tishrei in which we celebrate Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah. The concentration of the festivals in a short span of time allows us to put some time into the spiritual attunement of the season, while at the same time giving us the opportunities to gather with friends and family, in joy and celebration. There are those who consider this month long holiday season a challenging interruption established schedules.  This is, in fact the point.  Adjusting our lives to follow the Jewish calendar serves to wrestle us away from set routines, reminding us to build holiness into our lives.

When the holidays are over and we resume our life’s journey, we’re ready for that ‘going and growing’.

May you be blessed on your journey.

L’shana Tova.


This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and Atlanta Jewish Connector assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.