One recent night, a friend reminded me that the Perseid meteors were going to be visible. Late that evening, we turned off all our lights, went outside and lay on our backs on the deck. I knew it would take a while for my eyes to adjust.
From the moment I looked up at the heavens, I was awestruck by the sheer number of stars. I thought: Even if I don’t see any meteors, it’s enough, because this is so beautiful! And then I saw one streak across the sky.
I know that I’m lucky to live in a place that doesn’t have a lot of light pollution, where we can turn off our lights and really see the night sky. And I know that the reason the stars were so visible is that there was almost no moon.
This is a time of year when we are invited to look deep within.
From new moon, to full moon, to new moon again: that’s the cycle of the sky. It’s also the cycle of sacred time according to ancient Jewish tradition. As I lay there looking up at the meteors and the stars, I knew that the next new moon would bring the Jewish New Year.
The month before the New Year, any new year for that matter, can be a time to deepen our spiritual practices, whatever they may be: yoga, meditation, prayer, walking in the woods. It can be a month for spiritual preparation, a month during which we look back on the year now ending, and hope ahead toward what the coming year could bring. Devoting a few moments a day, for a few weeks, to introspection, discerning where we may have misstepped and where we forged a wise path, will help us to realize those hopes.
Who have you been since last fall? What are you proud of, and what do you feel ashamed of? When were you the best self you know how to be, and when did you fall short? How’s your relationship with God these days – whatever that word or idea means to you?
The stars are there every night, but we can only see them when there are no clouds and when the moon has dwindled. The opportunity to examine ourselves is there all year long – but some seasons of the year offer us special opportunities to see ourselves in a new light.
This is a time of month when the night sky is filled with tiny lights, which reward us if we take the time to gaze upward. And this is a time of year when we are invited to look deep within. Imagine what we might see in ourselves if we take the time to let our eyes adjust.
A version of this post was originally published on the author’s blog, The Velveteen Rabbi.
Since 2003, Rachel Barenblat has blogged as The Velveteen Rabbi. Ordained as a rabbi and spiritual director, she serves Congregation Beth Israel and is a founding builder at Bayit: Your Jewish Home. Her books of poetry include 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia, 2011) and Texts to the Holy (Ben Yehuda, 2018).