Elul Writing: Pat B’Salo

This year I am subscribed to Rabbi Jordan Braunig’s Elul writing prompts. So close to Kol Nidrei I’m not making any vows, but I’m going to try to do something with this nice infusion of Elul creativity. This blog has been fallow for far too long, and it turns out that leaving one’s job opens up a lot of time for thinking and writing.

PROMPT 1: On this first day of the month of Elul, let’s play with the notion of pat b’salo/bread in one’s basket.  The sages teach that we should provide a traveler with bread for their basket.  Of course, a baguette or a boule would not be enough to nourish a traveler in any sustained way; but the knowledge that one has some provisions might allow them to travel farther and with more confidence.  So, as we take our first steps on the journey into this month of reflection let’s toss a little bread in our proverbial baskets.

What are you carrying with you already that is a source of sustenance and nourishment?  What gives you confidence and surety that you will eventually arrive in the place you hope to be?

This question really makes me sing, and makes me think. Being at a moment of transition at this point in the Jewish year is full of nuance and possibility. In the job I just left, there were moments when I felt woefully inadequate, even at times like a failure. Moving into job search mode can also awaken that troubling feeling of not being enough, even as I try to keep the notion safely boxed in.

Of course I’m not the only person — not even the only privileged white lady — dealing with uncertainty and transition. There are people in my circle dealing with major marital upheaval, with surprising career shifts, with illness, with soul-crushing loneliness. That doesn’t even begin to address the people who are suffering under current political or economic conditions — those afraid to love who they love or live where they live.

Where might we all find hope? What is the bread for our baskets?

As I search my own basket I find certain crumbs that never leave: my family, my friends, my faith. Even in the most difficult situations, somehow these three keep me from feeling spiritually impoverished. And in my theology the three are braided together. The acts of chesed we each do for one another are a reflection of the face of G-d. One of my favorite lines in the liturgy is the last line of Adon Olam: Adonai li v’lo ira. I have G-d and I am not afraid.

That is the bread in my basket.

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