Every year, IKAR asks community members to reach into their experiences and share with the community some thoughts that have been helpful or experiences that have transformed them in some way. The collection of thoughts appears in shul as a book, giving people something else to read if the liturgy fails to inspire at various parts of the service. Last year the theme was "unstuck" - this year, the theme was "epiphany." You can read more about the framing of this exercise here.
As we head into Yom Kippur in California - and as my friends in other places have already ushered in the Day of Atonement - I am wishing you all epiphanies and miracles in this new year. Here is my entry on "Epiphany."
Epiphany is part surprise, part revelation - a mundane moment elevated as some essential truth is unveiled. The word itself is in some ways reflective of the mystery and unsettling nature of the experience - plosive in sound at its start, elegant at its end, but indicating a state of being that is fundamentally altered. In that way, moments of epiphany are not unlike grief: they are felt as nakedness, as illness, as grief, as instability. Deep grief is a lens that obscures clarity and context - your immediate environment is off-balance, thrown askew by loss. Your awareness of mortality, weakness, and the futility of living within human instability deepen, and threaten. But epiphany also contains fragments of revelation - dreamlike messages that are not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in still, small voices within us that speak up and demand that we take notice.
If you're lucky, those voices bleed into waking life - then, you can walk into a virtual or actual room - whether it's a Facebook wall, or a Tweetstream, or a minyan - of people with other human experiences, people who have grieved and survived, who have wept from the depths of their souls, and who show you how to glean meaning and laughter after experiencing loss.
These people are our existential continuum, context personified: living reminders that as long as we are here, even if we're single, or feeling abandoned, or mourning a loss, we have our human family around us. When we are low on strength, we can borrow against the collective, each withdrawal its own promise that, when our reserves are replenished, we will give back to those who support us - sharing embraces, tears, experiences and words. This privilege, this community covenant, is both epiphany and miracle.
Shanah tovah and g'mar chatimah tovah.