Editor's note: There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery. On each of the 29 days of Elul, performer Craig Taubman posts a "jewel," or story, from some of today's most celebrated visionaries. Past contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, Sarah Lefton, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Ruth Messinger and Lady Gaga, among many others. Today's reflection comes from Karyn Kedar.
It was early September. My husband and I went on a high-speed car chase around the valleys and mountains of the Grand Tetons to capture a glimpse of the setting sun.
With five minutes to spare before the spray of light turned dark, we found a spot nestled in a valley on the side of the road with no mountain crag to obscure our view. Simply the horizon, the setting sun, and majestic colors of miracle and awe.
As we watched the spectacle before us, I heard a sound that I had never heard before. I rolled down the car window and saw hundreds of black birds that had come to nest for the night in a small grove of trees. The birds were barely visible except for a dance that looked like the shadow of wings and leaves fluttering against the dusk.
Out of the far distance, as if from thin air, appeared a solitary bird racing at what seemed like the speed of light toward the grove to join the others. As she landed on the treetop, birds fluttered, rising and settling until they all made room for the new arrival and found their place.
As the trees, leaves and birds became mere dark silhouettes against the blackened sky, the sound of them became somehow louder. And as the sky grew darker and darker, the music brought light to my soul.
Black birds disappearing in the trees at night sing an eternal song, echoing a truth, a melody that is easily forgotten. Even in the darkness there is music. It is what makes us holy and good, moral and compassionate, fully alive, aware, kind.
That music is the sound of our humanity brushing up against our divinity.
Teach us, dear God, how to listen.
Karyn Kedar is a prolific writer and the Rabbi of Congregation BJBE in Deerfield Illinois.