Jewels of Elul — #15: “What If?”

Posted on August 26, 2018

What If?
by Rabbi David Wolpe

Life is composed of finite facts and infinite possibilities. Part of the art of living is to take the possibilities and elevate those which enhance our lives, improve our world and grow our souls….

In the Talmud, one Rabbi has a dream about an upside-down world. By stretching our minds, by what-iffing, we can broaden our vision and jump start our imaginations.

On the Yamim Noraim we wonder what the world would be if… suddenly the gleam brightens, the blur sharpens, the vision beckons, and we recognize that maybe, just maybe, this year we can turn the ‘if’ into ‘when.’

May this be a year of realized possibilities, of health and joy and peace.

Rabbi David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.


What If?
by Craig Taubman:

“What if” is the ultimate dare, the permission to think out of the box and reach for what might, could, or ought to be….

The High Holy Days are brilliant, annual, spiritual do-overs, to imagine and reevaluate how we are doing. A healthy willingness to ask “what if” questions can lead to the next big — and little — thing. It always has, and it always will.

I doubt you will agree with all of the “what if” conclusions from this year’s Jewels, but what if you were open to asking the questions?

To a sweet, joyous and healthy New Year.

Craig Taubman is a musician, producer, and founder of the Pico Union Project, and the creator of Jewels of Elul.


The Yom Kippur Challenge

by Yossi Klein Halevi

What if we believed that, one day, we were going to die? What if we could imagine our final moments?

Most of us don’t really believe our lives are finite. But on Yom Kippur we are forced to admit the essential fact of this life: that it will end.

Yom Kippur challenges our comfortable pieties about Judaism as a this-worldly religion. It is our annual summons to abandon name/ face/personality/achievements and inhabit our death-bed. An out-of-body experience that urges us to relinquish what will someday be taken from us, so that we can live the time allotted us with greater moral clarity and spiritual intensity.

If we experienced Yom Kippur as an invitation to deeply imagine our final moments, how would we judge the ambitions that have defined our lives? Which of our dreams would shame us, which would we wish we hadn’t pursued? What memories would give us strength?

If we could carry something of that subversive experience into the rest of the year, “remember” those moments before leaving the body behind, how would we order our priorities? What flaws in our being would we more vigorously confront? What grudges would we surrender, what severed friendships restore, what suppressed apologies resurrect, what regrets concede? How much more unconditional love would we force ourselves to summon?

Yossi Klein Halevi is a writer and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

To read more of this year’s Jewels, click here.
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Wishing you a meaningful continuation of your journey toward the Days of Awe.