#BlogElul – Fulfill
Fulfill – satisfy, be complete, keep a promise.
There are times when life seems to make a promise. Especially as a kid, but at all times, one has this sense that very soon, something exciting and amazing and wonderful is about to happen. When I grow up, I’ll be a movie star and a ballerina and a teacher and a fire fighter and a doctor! And I’ll live in a perfect house with perfect family and we’ll wear long beautiful gowns and eat little fancy pastries.
Or whatever. They’re not even dreams, really! They’re just that sense that ‘it’s going to be good’, that there’s joy behind the curtain, and that everything is possible and can be enjoyable. Most of the time, one’s adult life isn’t like that. The fancy meals become stacks of dishes, the perfect family becomes diapers and morning conflicts, the wonderful career becomes piles of paperwork, and the beautiful long gowns are a pain to clean. So, mostly, life – God – just doesn’t cut it. The promise stays unfulfilled and we are, on some under-the-surface level, really, really disappointed.
However, there are exceptions! Today, life fulfills its promise. Today, I sing with family and friends. Today, my kid (the one who has a reading disability) sneaks off to read a book. Today, both my daughter and my mother repost my blog. Today, a parent tells me that a child has said, “my kid just used words I never thought she’d say, that she likes going to math class.” Today, we have a fancy meal, and friends to help with dishes. Today, I get to wear a dress with puffed sleeves – and be proud of myself for putting away my clean laundry. Today, the weather is actually not too hot or too cold, not rainy or dreary – it’s nice (and in Canada, that is not a frequent occurrence.)
I find myself actually satisfied with God’s goodness, feeling full and fulfilled. It’s not a place I can (or even one I would wish to) stay in, but it’s great to go there some days! It’s a good day to say, “Thank you”. Moments like this are the Sheheheyanu moments.
It’s a beautiful prayer. Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheynu, Melekh Ha-Olam Sheheheyanu, VeKiemanu, Vehigianu lazman haze.
And if you follow the blog, some of these terms are familiar to you even if you don’t know any other Hebrew, because Hebrew prayers repeat.
Barukh – bless. It’s funny – we don’t praise or thank God, we bless God, who being perfect, should need no blessing. The word ‘bless’ here is a recognition that we are a part of God, that maybe from one side, God is perfect but there are other sides, sides that include us, that have aspects that need blessing. So, we wish for good things for ourselves and each other, and in so doing, for God.
Ata – You. We talk to God one-on-one, accentuating the personal relationship we have with God. There is no intermediary here. This is a private chat, and we are saying thanks, the way we would if a person was involved. It’s a powerful way of relating, that only jibes with our understanding of God as part of ourselves when we realize that a) talking to ourselves is OK, and b) there’s a lot about God we’re unlikely to understand.
Adonai – For instance, this “our lord” term which is a replacement for the unpronounceable name of God, and which has plural and singular forms kind of mixed in (it’s one of those things we call exceptions of language – or maybe it’s an exception of reality?) We don’t know what God is. Calling God a Master or Commander, is one way to handle that. Hopefully, we can find others.
Eloheynu – Here we affirm that whatever this God is, God is ours. There’s a relationship there that includes possession. Not the possession of ownership that robs the other of individuality and power, but the possession of relationship, the one that says our to a family member who is loved. God is part of us and we are part of God.
Melekh HaOlam – God is not made any smaller by us, though. God still runs and manages the universe, the now and forever of it. We acknowledge that this is not a relationship of equals. We allow ourselves to imagine a consciousness for the universe, and imagine how powerful and beyond comprehension it would be. We reaffirm once again, distasteful as that thought might be, that we are not God.
Sheheheyanu – who kept us alive. Life’s promise – the big one – is that we are alive and can experience things. It’s good to start our gratitude prayer with an understanding of the main miracle of life – that it exists, that it exists for us. I am alive, and that is a powerful reason to celebrate. Here I acknowledge that my life is not something I earned, but a gift.
VeKiemanu – and sustained us. Kept us going. Well, obviously! If we’re alive, we’ve kept going! But have we really? We could have just settled. If I had settled, I wouldn’t have the singing, the teaching job, the kids who can do the things I showed them. I’d have none of that. Here, we see that with God’s help, we’ve kept doing the do things.
VeHigianu – and got us. Sometimes, kicking and screaming, mind you. It hasn’t always been easy for life to corral me into doing the things I need to do to be fulfilled and occasionally happy. It’s been painfully difficult, in fact. Here, I thank God (and other people, who are a part of God) for that ‘gentle’ encouragement. I’ve grown from it.
LaZman HaZe. – to this time; to this season; to this moment. It’s about the now. Bad things have happened and will happen again. The cat will pee on my sandals and I will be behind on my paperwork, a kid will scream at me that I’m unfair or tell me that they’ve decided not to focus so much on their studies. Life will remain challenging. But, here, right now, in this very moment, life (God/the universe/my best self) fulfils its promise.