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Whispers of Kadosh: Listening for the Holy A Kavanah for Rosh Hashanah

Liz Emens

A friend I admire once told me that, when she goes through her days, she can hear a whisper that says “kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”—holy, holy, holy—in the everyday sounds around her.

On a good day, I can hear this whisper too: in the slushing of tires through puddles in these city streets; in my children’s laughter; even in tiny sounds of my own breath when it’s quiet.

I hear it more this time of year—kadosh kadosh kadosh—when I listen for the sacred in the mundane.

* * *

Harder for me than listening for a joyful susurrus is hearing that sacred whisper of kadosh in unpleasant moments.  Like in small annoyances: in a door slamming; in my children’s whining (rare moments, of course); or in someone else’s ringtone.

Even harder still is to find the holy in real suffering.

I had a tiny dose of some intense suffering recently with a GI infection that kept me in a haze of nausea and worse for days.  I felt a fair amount of self-pity, I’ll admit. In my better moments, though, I remembered the intention (kavanah) that the meditation teacher Tara Brach invites us to utter silently in our painful moments, “May this too serve the awakening of compassion”

When I’m suffering—physically or emotionally—I so often feel disconnected.  Even if I’m surrounded by others, I can feel lonely. I can get stuck in resistance, in the refrain: This is not what I wanted!

But that little prayer—May this too serve the awakening of compassion—gives me a chance to feel connected instead of alone.  To say yes to these moments instead of no.

* * *

There’s a poem that captures this intention well.  

The Healing Timeby Pesha Joyce Gertler

Finally on my way to yes

I bump into

all the places

where I said no

to my life

all the untended wounds

the red and purple scars

those hieroglyphs of pain

carved into my skin, my bones,

those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them

the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I lift them

one by one

close to my heart

and I say holy,


* * *

In this time of t’shuvah, of returning, may we allow our challenging moments to serve the awakening of compassion.

And in moments of joy and of pain—and in the less interesting daily stuff in between—may we hear that whisper, all around us, of kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.

Thank you.

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