days of repentance: 4 Elul

“it is I, I myself come to comfort you”

so we will learn from the prophet Isaiah (51:12) in the upcoming 4th haftarah of comfort this coming Shabbat. my own practice is to begin saying full slichot prayers daily beginning on 3 Elul, yesterday, rather than Rosh Chodesh Elul, as is traditional for most sephardim. it is because of the number of days that elapse between the 3rd day and Rosh haShanah: 26. 26 reminds me of G’d’s personal comfort in the time of t’shuvah, for it is the simple gematria for the Name haShem, ie, the tetragramaton to the secular: yud is 10, heh is 5, vav is 6 and heh again is 5….26.  and the 4 letters of the name can teach us a fundamental practice for doing t’shuvah: to be completely in the moment. to do NOW…how do we know this from 26?

we learn that the 4 letters can permutated to create 3 words that cover the realm of time: ‘haya’ means “was”; ‘hoveh’ means “is”; ‘yihyeh’ means “will be”. the Infinite, logically, compromises past present future, but we learn that G’d has actually always expressed G’dself in the order of the letters in the Divine Name, ie,  ‘yod-hoveh’ (sounds like jehovah, yes?), which is the “‘yod’ of the is”….of the present moment….of the eternal “NOW”.

consider the letter yod itself. it is the smallest character of the alphabet, always hanging in the air….barely there, really. it is the first letter that begins to form when a scribe begins to write a Torah scroll….the rest of the letter grows into the bet of bereishit, but the letter itself begins as a yod (that never gets its short tail). this is the point of Creation. the beginning of time, before which nothing Created was, and after which nothing is yet known in the Creation. the letter yod is the moment of Creation, which is repeated in each moment, each of which is Created in a moment. it is the eternal present. the moment we should always be living in–indeed, is there any choice?–especially when doing t’shuvah. t’shuvah is the getting behind you of the wrong, and the gaining of the hope of future good action, but it is gained ONLY in the moment. every mitzvah can only be done in the particular moment that it presents itself and is taken up by a doer.

there is another method of gematria, the “full measure”  or “full value” method, in which the value of each letter is multiplied by itself, so the 4-letter Name tallies up as (10×10) + (5×5) + (6×6) + (5×5)….or 186. 186 is the simple gematria of the Name of G’d which is haMakom, ie, “the Place”, which takes care of the spatial aspect of the space-time continuum for us….haMakom, the Place, is wherever it is in the moment….the eternal “HERE”:

G’d is here and now

(always)

so the chant would be “where is G’d?”   HERE    ” and when is G’d here?”  NOW….

to turn (return) to G’d, you turn where you are in order to face where you are. and when do you turn? in the moment you are in. the first lesson of t’shuvah is to

be in the moment

and there is a jewish way of getting yourself into the moment. most of you know something about it…kavanah. kavanah is ‘intention’. it is usually a set of words that say 2 things….’i am here ‘(make like Avraham avinu)….and  ‘i am ready’

ready to do what? well, to walk with haShem.  before you turn on your computer in the morning (or just wake it up), try a simple kavanah with the intention to insert the Divine into that moment…..”here i am, haShem, ready to do the mitzvah of my work by starting my machine, grateful for the opportunity, and mindful of Your Presence.”

not so hard, right. find your own moments of import in your day and bring a kavanah to the doing of each. make this an “established” habit and you are on your way to living more fully in every moment….cheek to jowl with where G’d is and just in time!

ketiva vachatima tova

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