Clergy’s Corner

Read Rabbi Barras’ Monthly Reflections — “Rav Bar Oz

In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Rabbi Jaime K. Aklepi to share some thoughts with you. You may contact her at with any comments.

Hold on to August

As we begin the month of August, I often think: what happened to summer? August was once the middle of the summer. Today, if you have children in school, even college, or if you are an educator, mid-August means back to school. I find myself trying to enjoy what should still be summer while revving up for a new year. I wish I could hold on to August. Is it still possible to enjoy what were once the lazy days of summer and vacation, while we are still so very connected through our phones and email to our many responsibilities and activities?

Hold on to your August; be fully present in the moment. It’s a good metaphor for any time of year. The times we are watching the orb of the sun dip into the ocean through a 6” screen instead of in full view, directly with our eyes. The times our schedules are so tightly packed that by the end of the day in place of exhilaration there is exhaustion. During times like these it is impossible to be fully present. There is a wonderful Yiddish expression that warns against living this way: “You can’t dance at two weddings with one tuchus.” Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, we need to choose the way we spend our time more carefully, and spend it well.

One way to think about the way we spend our time is found in Psalm 15:2: “dover emet bil’vavo, be the one who speaks the truth in their heart.” The sages teach that a person who speaks the truth in their heart carries into effect what they have purposed in their heart; they make good on what it is they propose to do. There is a story about Rabbi Safra, a Talmudic sage who had a donkey for sale. A buyer approached the rabbi and called out an offer for the donkey while he was in the middle of a prayer during which tradition forbids speaking. When the rabbi didn’t respond, the buyer offered a higher price. When Rabbi Safra finished his prayer, he approached the man and accepted his first, lower bid. He explained, “Since I knew when I heard you call out your offer that it was acceptable to me, it would be dishonest for me to accept your higher bid.” Rabbi Safra lived the virtue of “one who speaks the truth in his heart.” He followed his own honest purpose. (Story from The Book of Jewish Values by Joseph Telushkin.)

The psalm encourages us to follow the wisdom that is already in our hearts. So many times the “truth” is there. We do know what is important to us. We do know what areas of our life need greater attention, we do know what relationships need to be nurtured more. When we speak the truth in our heart, when we act on it, we are choosing what is best for us. That is what is meant by “following our heart.” Are we willing to “follow our heart?” It takes quieting the outside world of what may be popular among peers and listening to our own values, ideas, goals, desires and instincts.

As we hold on to the last weeks of summer, be one who speaks truth in their heart, is present in each moment and then you‘ll never feel frustrated by trying to dance at two weddings with one tuchus again.

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