Earlier this week, when I was looking around the garage to see if there was anything more I could recycle or remove, I paused to ponder the shopping bag of plastic Target bags. After sixteen months of curbside pickup—despite having used many as garbage bags—I’ve accumulated quite a stash. I tossed them into the trunk of the car and tried to return them to Target, and was disappointed to learn they are not accepting returned bags at this time.
Maybe in a few months I’ll try again.
Although it’s still summer, we’re in a season of return. Students are returning to school, my spouse and our son are returning to campus, I am returning to this blog and to the basement studio to throw pots. Next week, I’m returning to the skies, taking my first flight in more than twenty months. After I return from a week in New York, I’ll be returning to The Weber School to create curricular materials and team-teach with former colleagues.
While all of this returning brings with it hope for a future time when we’ll be able to resume activities safely, returning the Target bags to my garage is a reminder we’re not there yet.
In Jewish life, we’re also entering a season of return. In a few days, we’ll welcome the Hebrew month of Elul with the sound of the shofar, a reminder that the season of repentance and days of awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are approaching. During this month, we make an accounting of our deeds and take responsibility for our actions in the previous year; we seek forgiveness from those we have wronged and let go of anger and recrimination; we strive to return to ourselves, our best selves, so we may repent before God on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And then we begin the process anew.
We live in a perpetual state of return.
God says to us, “Return to me, for I will redeem you.” (Isaiah 44:22) May we respond to this call by first returning to each other with a renewed commitment to live together in peace.