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Cut From the Same Cloth (Kavanah for Amidah, Rosh Hashanah)

09/21/2018 08:24:06 PM


Hannah Orden

When my mother was dying, she asked me to write down parts of the story of her life. One of the things she told me was that when I was born, the youngest of her three children, she thought: "Finally, a child cut from the same cloth." My brother got a lot of mileage out of teasing me about it. I'm not sure my sister was quite so amused. And Bella, who is a teenager at the time, wanted to know if she was also “cut from the same cloth.”

I didn't know what to say, because I didn't think my mother and I were cut from the same cloth. Certainly, we were very close when I was a child. But by adolescence, I needed to assert my independence and individuality. I rebelled, and mostly focused on the ways that my mother and I were different. I was not so sure I wanted to be cut from the cloth.

At a Friday night service this summer, I read a Mary Oliver poem that is Bella’s favorite poem. It wasn’t until later in the summer, while I was riding my bike one day, that I realized that both my mother and my daughter had favorite poems. And the more I thought about it, the more it struck me that the poems had the same message.

My mother’s favorite poem was by the German poet Goethe.

Whatever you can do or dream you can,

begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.

Bella's favorite poem by the Canadian poet Mary Oliver is called The Summer Day.

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Both of these poems seem to me to convey an important message for the High Holidays. Each year we are given this gift of time to reflect. No matter what age or stage of life we are, we are have time pause and wonder  – what do we want to do with this precious life we are given, and whatever it is, how can we be bold enough and courageous enough to begin it?

If that is the cloth my mother and daughter are cut from, to be the kind of people who want to make the most of our one precious life, to be dreamers and doers, it would be my great honor to be cut from the same cloth.

Tue, August 11 2020 21 Av 5780