I watched the recent biopic about Elton John’s life and then found myself returning to songs I had loved in my youth, particularly “Yellow Brick Road.” In the film it is played during the dramatic turning point (spoiler alert!) when he is ready to confront his drug abuse, childhood traumas, and family dysfunction. Beyond “the Yellow Brick Road” is turning from the glamorous, soulless, high life, towards another path – one maybe harder to follow, but one that leads towards more fulfillment.
As a teenager back in the day I related to that song as a desire to follow a different path than the one expected by the people around me; a path that didn’t necessarily take me to the Emerald City, but to places unknown yet hopeful. Saying goodbye to the Yellow Brick Road means finding our soul’s calling.
What an interesting metaphor for this High Holiday season with its theme of teshuvah. Teshuvah is often translated as repentance, but a more accurate etymological meaning might be: turning and returning. In making teshuvah, we first turn inward in reflection and then we turn outward to each other, seeking forgiveness and recommitting to our determination to be our best and truest selves. Teshuvah requires us to muster all our love, compassion and powers of healing to deepen connections and create meaning in our lives. When we do teshuvah we too can return to our soul’s calling.
We may be on the Yellow Brick Road due to a multitude of promises, distractions or decisions, but it’s time to go beyond it. That might mean doing some hard work on things or habits or ways of thinking or relationships that may seem bright and shiny, but really, in the end, are not good for us as they are.
I love this time of year because I know that every single one of us is on a journey, and yet we are not on that journey alone. We come together as a community, connecting to past and future generations through ritual, prayer, food and customs. We reflect on where we are as individuals, as a community and as Jewish people, living in divisive, uncertain and even frightening time. We support each other in our struggles and find strength in our compassion and caring.
May we all find a road that truly leads us home, to safety, healing, and meaning.
On behalf of Temple B’nai Abraham I wish you and your families L’Shanah Tovah u-metukah, a good and sweet New Year.
Rabbi Alison Adler leads Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly.