Imagining a New Beginning

Imagining a New Beginning

By Rabbi Ron Segal | Temple Sinai

Almost a decade ago, Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wrote a piece titled “For a New Beginning.” With the approach of Rosh Hashanah, the title of O’Donohue’s work understandably grabbed my attention; after I read it, the content even more so:

Rabbi Ron Segal
Rabbi Ron Segal

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.


For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.


It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.


Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.


Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening,

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.


Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

— John O’Donohue, “To Bless the Space Between Us”

The author aptly captures the personal challenges that seem to impede our change and growth — the inertia¸ anxiety and repeated promises that grudgingly find us each new year in a place of emotional and spiritual familiarity. But he also enables us to envision, quite beautifully and meaningfully, the potential blessings that await us, if only we will open ourselves to new possibilities.

The Days of Awe provide us with the ideal frame in which to begin again. By examining our actions, considering the current state of our relationships, and reflecting upon the ways in which we have treated ourselves throughout this past year, we can seek to repair the places that are injured and thus unfurl ourselves into a new beginning and a new year that is at one with our truest selves.

O’Donohue’s language is compelling and powerful. When we are honest with ourselves and others, “your soul senses the world that awaits you.”

Rabbi Brad Levenberg, Rabbi Elana Perry, Rabbi Phil Kranz and Bunzl Family Cantorial Chair Beth Schafer join me in extending wishes for a shana tova u’metuka u’shleima — a good, sweet and peaceful 5776.

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