days of repentance: 6 & 7 Elul

“soon i’m going to make a mortal human of flesh…but only on 1 condition…when they, because of their iniquities,                           turn to you,  

you must be ready to erase their faults”

so says the Holy One, blessed be, to…well, to whom? to an angel? nope. to ‘wisdom’? well, if you are willing to see t’shuvah as the wisdom it is, maaaaybe. to t’shuvah….yup, to t’shuvah (Zohar3:69b). to t’shuvah, which was created before the Creation of the World, and not just according to the mystics, but according to Chazal, the rabbis of the Talmud (Pesachim 54a).

this is quite an idea. the means of repair of the relationship between humans and G’d (and humans) was created before the humans themselves. t’shuvah is something like the medium out of which radical free will is created…without an “out” humans were doomed to lives of error, iniquity, and darkness. why? because as Creations truly free to act, they were created to act without a sense of certainty in what to expect….Creations not given to habit and instinct only….Creations with a consciousness that would enable to act against their own interests!….and, of course, against  whatever was thought to be G’d’s will. we humans are self-seducing, you see. we are truly free to test limitations and limits because the way back is already there before us. like air. and light. and plant life. and the universe. reb Nachman must have been thinking of this pre-Creation t’shuvah when he taught:

if you believe you can destroy, you must believe you can repair

aside from the Sh’ma, i don’t know that anything states the essence of judaism better than this simple phrase. this is the essence of belief outside of belief in haShem purely…this is the way. remember, the Zohar actually points out that the human appeal in times of darkness would be to t’shuvah, which can act with humans alone to effect repair. it is like the existence of the Rad51/Srs2 enzyme balance  that allows for “spontaneous” DNA repair within the cell…Rad51 is that hint at a u-turn. the street is always potentially 2-way. likewise, the u-turn in approach to haShem and to moral/ethical behavior can reciprocate.

when the Holy One needed to make a point to pharaoh and the world, he “hardened” pharaoh’s heart….think of it as Srs2 predominating, allowing pharaoh’s spiritual DNA to continue replicating bad…..the issue for all of us is to flip the t’shuvah switch and live differently.

we are not automatons for either the good or that bad. ours is a pied way (GMHopkins, 1918):

“glory be to G’d for dappled things–

all things counter, original, spare, strange;                         whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)…..

…….Praise him” 

Chazal see the way of t’shuvah in the hebrew letter hei, stating that the universe was created with it (Menachot 29b). the  hei has a solid horizontal bar on top, attached on the right side to a solid vertical bar. but on the left, the vertical bar is short of reaching the top bar. there is an opening in it moving toward the next letter (hebrew is, of course, read from right to left). and hei has no bottom. how does it represent t’shuvah? well, one can fall away out the bottom of the hei, but can always work back up and take the passageway to the left back into the stream of endless possibility in each and every moment.

we should note that there are 2 hei’s in the unpronounceable name of G’d: one after the yod that is the entrance of the Divine in Creation, and another after the vav that is the full extent of the Divine in Completion. after the explosion of the creative yod, then, there is no full extension, ie,  vav, no completion (hence, redemption ultimately) without first navigating the hei of t’shuvah. and after the completion/redemption what still remains? the hei of t’shuvah. the present moment represented by hoveh, is redemption sandwiched twixt t’shuvah. a good way to remember that t’shuvah is the alpha and the omega, if you will, in the walk with haShem (the Name). return and return…continuous t’shuvah….not at all something to “do” once a year in the fall.

and consider quickly the difference between hei and the closed letter equivalent, the letter chet, the very name of which means “sin,” or better, errancy, missing the mark, deviating from the path. pry open the left side of chet and you have hei. t’shuvah is only redemptive when it continues to be open, so if you think you can “do” it once a year and be done, well, you’ve made your hei into a closed chet….t’shuvah into a thing and not a way of walkin Torah. you have, one might say, created an idol that has no ongoing power. from a chet, one can only go down…..

now, since we have also just enjoyed the 7th day of Elul, the first shabbat in the month that was not also Rosh Chodesh, we should consider the relationship between t’shuvah and Shabbat. you probably have already guessed the shabbat frees us from the routine of everyday life, just as t’shuvah frees us from deadly habit. shabbat is the only in the moment living many people have a chance to do, for living so in the hubbub of workaday routine is very difficult for many.  so, since we are dealing kabbalistically with letters, let’s notice the shin bet tav (shabbat) are rearranged as tav shin bet in tashev, which means return and is the root of the word t’shuvah. of course, each week, in the hebrew calendar, is a counting up toward the next shabbat…ie, yom rishon toward shabbat, yom sheni toward shabbat….so it is shabbat to which we return each week…a taste of the world to come in that it is a day of just being, and not our everyday doing. now to make the word t’shuvah from tashev, you add a vav of redemption after the shin of shabbat and tack a hei on the end after the bet: tav shin vav bet hei. t’shuvah is, then, a sort of open-ended shabbat of redemption….endless being, endless blessing….constant walkin Torah with haShem.

t’shuvah is the breathing out of hei (go ahead say it, either as “hay” or as “ah”) ridding us of the spent, and preparing for the next oxygen-rich breathing in….all through that opening in the letter. a good way to remember it.  t’shuvah breaks habit, which is really nothing but the predictable, mindless, determined extension of the past, and opens to endless possibility in each moment. t’shuvah is the ever extending possibility of newness, the u-turn on a one-way street.

practice the idea of repair in your personal resolve. know, absolutely know, that no matter how fallen you may be, you can rise, even if you need crutches. resolve to get up today, or tomorrow, or very, very soon and know that there is no destruction that can’t be repaired in some way. t’shuvah has been around longer than you…it’s roots are deeper sunk and cannot be uprooted.

 

days of repentance: 5 Elul

“it is forbidden to be old”

Reb Nachman did not mean in so teaching that one had to die young like marilyn monroe or james dean, let alone like hendrix and joplin, or cobain, tupac, and amy winehouse. you should live to be 120, means you really should live for 120 years! so how do you do that if it is forbidden to be old?  not to grow old, mind you, but to be old.

“on the 5th of the month, as i was amidst the exile,

by the river kvar”

relates Ezekiel at the very beginning (1:1) of his prophetic teaching, and then the heavens opened and he saw visions of G’d. he saw the famous ‘chashmal’ (something glowing and electric) and the 4 manlike creatures, each with 4 faces and 4 wings, with a single straight leg and bulbous foot, sparkling like burnished copper. now that is quite an awakening to something indeed. but what was he awakened from?  from being smack dab in the middle of exile, and standing by a flowing river called kvar, meaning “already”.  Ezekiel was awakened out of the past, out of the attitude of  been there done that, out of the jaded,   ‘already’ way of habit. exile represents the ossified way, and breeds the cynicism of everything and everytime having existed and been known, done, thought, and felt, ‘already’. it is forbidden, taught Reb Nachman, to be ‘already’, for THAT is to be exiled from haShem. and to return, to do t’shuvah requires that you be in the moment, the now, and not the what has been.

let’s give one to the greeks, shall we?  heraclitus famously taught his student that “you can’t step twice into the same river”, to which patteios, his student, replied by teaching his teacher, ” you can’t step into the same river once”.  ah, youth. of course, the river can’t be the same if not yet even stepped in, hence you never get the quality of same….not even once. looked at from this perspective, nothing is ever ‘already’ or old….all is entirely fresh in every moment.

there is a you tube video of watching which i NEVER tire. it is of a baby who laughs deeply and again and again and again at the simple ripping of paper held out by (presumably) the father. each of them has absolute delight with each ripping. each is as wonderful as the last. each holds the same wonder….again and again and again. this is the principle of ‘koach ha-hitchadshut’ or the “power of ongoing renewal”. we pray every morning to

haMechadesh b’tuvo b’khol-yom tamid ma’aseh bereishit

(the Renewer of Creation’s Doings each day)

the ba’al t’shuvah, the master of returning to G’d, must learn to live in continuous renewal. in this sense we can understand the Sages when they teach us (Avot 4:17)

1 hour of t’shuvah and good deeds in this world is better than eternity in the world to come

the way of t’shuvah is to recognise that tashlich crumbs are carried off in the river of already, but where you will take your next step will never be the same…..not even once!

and the practice? old as the hills…simply mind your breath. exhale the spent what was, and inhale the new what is. it is never the same breath, but rather renewal of life with fresh G’d’given air. to say, “oh, it’s just breathing” is to be in exile from the power of renewal (koach ha-hitchadshut); it is to be standing by the river kvar (already). it is to be old! and THAT is forbidden. mind your breath when you wake, or when you walk to work from the train or the parking lot, or after you’ve just kissed your beloved. feel that return to holy renewal and be in the moment.

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

days of repentance: 3 Elul

28 Iyyar 5664

28 Iyyar 5679

3 Elul 5695

today was 3 Elul, 77th anniversary of the death of Rav Kook z”l, on whose gravestone are found the 3 dates recorded herein. surely 77 is a significant number upon which to reflect. 77 is the simple gematria for ‘mazal’ (“luck”if you will), and certainly starting Elul with good fortune in the cards isn’t all bad, right?  but we can do better if we think back to the 3rd haftarah of comfort, which we read/heard on Rosh Chodesh Elul just passed, and remember Proverbs 18:10:

“migdal-oz, shem haShem”

(a tower of strength is the Name of G’d)

the Name is a tower (gematria=77) of strength (gematria=77). and the haftarah teaches us that all the children will learn of G’d, ie, come to know the Name. and we will not need to fear the oppression of our wrongs in the past  or the devastation of falling back into bad ways, for it will not come near (Isaiah 54:14).  let’s expand the 77-77 further in Psalm 61:4:

“for you have been a refuge for me

a tower of strength in the face of the enemy

and back to our haftarah, in which we learn further (54:17) the power inherent in the Name:

“any weapon sharpened against you will not succeed;

any tongue that will rise against you in judgment

YOU will condemn”

“you will condemn” any accusing sharpened tongue” for that is the heritage of the servants of G’d; THAT is part and parcel their righteousness from G’d. the deeds of the baal t’shuvah will defeat the naysayers and the evil report and the cynical doubt and the tongue of any accuser. what you do now defends you from what you may have done in the past. now defeats then. NOW is “the heritage of those in awe of the Name” (Psalm 61:6). turn to haShem truly with full heart–real t’shuvah– and you gain the tools to defeat even your worst enemies, the great oppressors of your past. YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS, nonetheless:

azamra shimcha la’ad

(i will sing praise to Your Name forever)

t’shuvah is to open to  channeling of the tower of strength from G’d the Source to you yourself  and through you to the world. and starting tomorrow, we will not begin to examine practices of t’shuvah, the way of the soul warrior.

oh, hey, what about those dates on Rav Kook’s stone? isn’t it usually just birthdate and deathdate? well, they reflect his own emulation of the walk of Avraham avinu with haShem.  do we know much about Avraham’s birth and birthdate? nope. but we know that he was called by G’d to GO himself, for himself, to himself, leaving behind your birthplace,  your land , and your parents home. 3 leavings for Avraham avinu represented 3 ascents that are paralleled in Rav Kook’s life: the parental home represents the pull of the familiar and comfortable origin, which R’ Kook put behind him when he left europe and  ascended to the Land of Israel on 28 Iyyar 5664; your land represents peer pressure for the ways of galut, which R’ Kook put away when he ascended to Jerusalem to live while founding a new religious way that merged rich zionism (and association with the secular) with traditional teachings and practices on 28 Iyyar 5679; and last, but not least, your birthplace represents the pull of the place into which your soul is born–your body, which R’ Kook put behind him when he died and ascended to the wholly spiritual realm on 3 Elul 5695.

birthdate is past–aveirah in aver–but each ascent as you walk Torah is a moment of vividly living in a moment. not a record of history, but a piling of milestones. so it is for everyone doing t’shuvah…you ascend from strength to strength, leaving behind the pulls of what was, adding your own milestones to the walls of the Tower  of Strength.

days of repentance: haftarah of comfort 3

“and all your children shall be taught of haShem; great shall be the peace of your children”

there’s comfort for us all herein. the promise of the future in the wholeness/peace of our children. not surprising, is it? as we’ve already discussed, these first 3 weeks of comfort have a parallel in the steps of the prayers said at graveside, and the third step of mourning corresponds to the movement from acceptance of loss to the reunderstanding of the goodness of G’d in the saying of kaddish. it is the first kaddish, to be followed thereafter by the daily kaddish yatom, the kaddish of the orphan.  all of us are orphaned since the destruction of the easy access to G’d’s Presence that was in Jerusalem.

a parent lost is like a parent hidden, yes? not absent exactly, for still held in memory, still alive in the learning we have been given by that father or mother. but not as visible. hidden, like the Presence of haShem….but that we are still aware of haShem in the dark times is the beauty of kaddish.

exalted and sanctified be the Great Name

so we say. we know You. you are not wholly gone. and in this 3rd haftarah of comfort Isaiah points out that all the orphans will learn of the Great Name and that will itself be the beginning of the beginnings of wholeness.

this brief haftarah, on shabbat just passed, culminates the week that leads up to Rosh Chodesh Elul. comfort for the “storm tossed” Israel, and wholeness to come, by way of the knowledge of G’d–“all your children shall be taught of haShem”–all of your newborns. and who are the newborns of Elul, which is aramaic for “searching”?

the newborns are the reborns. each of us who does t’shuvah is reborn in tzedek, in righteousness.

“establish yourself through righteousness;

distance yourself from oppression”

so says the prophet on behalf of G’d in our haftarah (Isaiah 54:14). REmake yourself in righteousness, putting distance between yourself and the wrongs of your past. in righteousness make yourself whole, give yourself peace by distancing yourself from the MAlingering past….in which you have oppressed others, knowingly or not. the past in which you have oppressed yourself  in the wrongs you have done. ”aveirah”, a key word for sin shares its root with “avar”, a word meaning past. t’shuvah is never about the past, chevrei, but only about what is to be now.

in this new month of Elul, we are all of us children again….if only we will learn of haShem….and everything we do from this point  to Yom Kippur is designed to teach us of nothing else.

days of repentance: haftarah of comfort 2

“Zion says…haShem has forsaken me

haShem has forgotten me”

the curious thing about the first haftarah of comfort (consolation), called ‘nachamu’ (after the meaning of the repeated first word, ie, “comfort my people, comfort them, says your G’d”) is that after the first verse it is anything but comforting. it goes on to say that the People is but as grass blown about and withered by the wind and the sun….in the face of G’d’s displeasure, the withered blades of grass are carried away as stubble. the first haftarah is comforting ONLY in that it asserts strongly that G’d is, in fact, in charge–in spite of all appearances to the contrary.

small comfort when one is feeling freshly dead in the destruction of the Temple…when one has died at tisha b’av  with the departure of the Shechina from out of Israel’s midst….forsaken, forgotten, with no Presence to which to turn…

sometimes i feel like a motherless child…a long ways from home

but in the second week, Isaiah (49:14-51:3) answers with G’d’s pointed reply…

“can a woman forget her baby…..

or not feel compassion for the child of her womb?”

well, you mothers out there? in spite of the sometimes mindnumbing, backbreaking routines of parenting, can you not still feel compassion for the child of your womb?  is that not about as good a surety—in the face of all the effort, the exasperation, the worry, the discipline, the sometime rejection and insolence of adolescent children, the fear of being ignored as you age—as great a certainty as any love we know on earth?  is there any better certainty then a mother’s love? even among the most secular, the “miracle of birth” is treasured, and is nearly never relinquished. severing the umbilicus severs only the physical.

but we are in a series of 7 haftarot of comforting us, comforting those who mourn loss of Shechina in the Temple. we are not yet comforted…..

the grief of a mourner has 3 prominent steps at internment: 1) the e’l-mole rachamim corresponds to acknowledgment of death and the request for protection of the deceased,  2) the tziduk hadin corresponds to the  accepting of truth in G’d’s judgment (verses proclaim G’d’s greatness and the “wisplike” existence of humankind, and 3) the graveside kaddish corresponds to turning of acceptance of death into the “magnification” that comes with comprehension of the greater good in the power of G’d.  this structure of the internment service corresponds to instruction from Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 27b): “3 days for weeping, in 7 for lamenting, and 30 [to not] cut the hair and [wear] pressed clothing.”

from tisha b’av to the 1st shabbat is step 1 (reflected in haftarah 1 of comfort); from that to the 2nd shabbat is the acceptance of the judgment and of the truth of G’d’s promise (reflected in haftarah 2 of comfort); from that to the 3rd shabbat, and rosh chodesh elul, is the beginning of kaddish, the eye toward the future promise through t’shuvah (repentance), leading through the remaining 4 of the 7 weeks to the Birthday of the World, the day of the greatness of haShem, Rosh Hashanah.

so the 2nd shabbat of comfort begins with the cry of the forsaken, but then pivots through the realization that the Promise to the People is as rock solid as the love of a mother for her child. and at the very end of the haftarah, there is mention of Avraham and Sarah, the first parents of the People Israel, to whom was given the promise not to be fulfilled in their own day, but in days to come–even after dark days of exile from the Land and slavery.

“look to Avraham your forefather and Sarah who birthed you”

and  the haftarah closes with the assurance that haShem will comfort, comforting even the very ruins, the persistence of memories of the destruction, the evil, the despondency. we are all of us spiritual ruins to one degree or another after another year of selling our spirits short, yes? our failures to live up to our best hopes, our strongest intentions, our responsibilities to each other and to G’d pile up into ruined heaps about this time of year. but right here. at THIS point in time the promise is that G’d will comfort our ruins, making Eden of our wastelands, we have the Promise of the other side of t’shuvah.  for on the other side of the Days of Awe, we are promised, if we do the work:

“joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving, and the sound of music”

this as we enter the third week, so start to look to the mountain of G’d in Jerusalem, and know that you will hear what you’ve heard before…your heart will be blessed with the sound of music, and you’ll sing once more.

PS-don’t forget, richard rodgers real family name was abrahams………now there’s the Promise in exile, eh?)

days of repentance: begin with love and comfort

no better days…than tu b’av and yom kippur

it was Rabban Gamliel who let us know that 6 days after the black fast of tisha b’av,  coinciding with the full moon, was a very, very important day. in the  Mishnah, Ta’anit 4, he is quoted, saying:

“there were no better (happier) days for the People of Israel than the 15th day of Av (tu b’av) and yom kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalm go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards….”

borrowed white dresses, by the way. just add a little something blue and you get the idea. the best day of the year to get married, they say, and the only day on which to get married without having to fast. that’s right, no fasting for bride and groom should they marry on to b’av….yom kippur doesn’t let us off so lightly, of course. but tu b’av comes with a full moon, mid month, and is as far away from the yom kippur katan that is every new moon for the People….a time of  fullness of promise rather than the narrow sliver of rosh chodesh.

but look at that apposition: tu b’av and yom kippur.  love and atonement to bookend the penitential season….indeed, it was custom to start preparing for the month of elul on tu b’av, the gematria for which totes up to that for:

ketiva vachatima tova

‘may your inscription and seal be for good’

sounds like the Days of Awe to me. but here’s the other thing: tu b’av was the beginning of the grape harvest in the Land. so those gals in the white dresses were dancing out in the vineyards harvesting those grapes with the boys….don’t bruise the fruit, now.

whence this idea of beginning atonement in love? well, the 7 weeks of consolation begin the shabbat after the black fast–in 2012 the first shabbat of consolation is cheek to jowl with tu b’av–and that set of 7 takes us right through the month of elul to the gate of tishrei (which begins the count up to the birthday of the world…Rosh haShanah). but what is the consolation for? well, for coming back from the great sins…the golden calf, the spies, the baseless hatred between brothers, etc, etc. tu b’av brings the consolation for the sin of the spies. consider the legend of how the People came to know that the 40-year time of wandering the desert til the generation of the sin of the spies had died out:

 every year for 40 years of wandering, on tisha b’av night, the Israelites dug themselves graves, in which they would sleep for tisha b’av. by morning some 15, 000 of them would not wake up, and tisha became the black funereal fast. year after year after year. in the 40th year, all slept in the graves they had dug, but in the morning, none had died

it is taught that the People thought maybe they had the date wrong, so they kept sleeping in their graves until tu b’av, the middle of the month and the time of the full moon. at that point they knew that the sin of the spies, the sin that led to the wandering, was atoned for. and those giant grapes that the spies brought back from the Land–“now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes” (Numbers 13:20)–were not an omen of ill, but of joy. Rabbi Chanan said (Sanhedrin 70a):

wine was created to comfort mourners….

well, at least that first tu b’av must have made it seem so….so a day of wine and happy human hearts….a day of love between people born of G’d’s love for people, that they are given the chance to emerge from the wrongdoings and misunderstandings that lead them to wander in the desert. comfort ye, comfort ye, my people…..for every year the road of t’shuvah begins with love and comfort.

the mighty r’ Akiva truly understood tu b’av and yom kippur, for he centralized the concept of belovedness between people and between people and G’d by insisting on including the Song of Songs in the canon…..and then by making “love your neighbor as yourself” the central teaching of the jewish way. on tu b’av we crawl out of our self-dug graves for a day of wine and love….white dresses, white kittels…under the chuppah, whether on tu or on yom kippur. a day of wine on tu….and ultimately of roses on yom kippur. how so?

368 maneh of ketoret

1 measure for each day, plus 3 extra for yom kippur

for only on yom kippur, and only in the joyful fragrance of a ketoret cloud could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies and atone for the People. yom kippur, the day of love and roses. “marei kohen” is the piyyut we say in the avodah section of the yom kippur musaf prayers; it is a series of descriptions of the kohen gadol’s appearance upon emerging from the Holy of the Holies “in peace, without injury”:

like the garden’s rose among the thorns

was the appearance of the Kohen

and so we begin the season of t’shuvah, of return to G’d and to our best selves with love….comfort ye, comfort ye, my People…..with days of wine and roses.