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Missing Pieces

08/23/2020 05:24:46 PM


.Without so many of our familiar routines and activities these days, it can be easy to lose track of time.   But despite the pandemic, the earth continues to rotate and circle around the sun.  Ready or not, summer is on the wane and the High Holy Days approach. 

On the Jewish calendar, the month of Elul (the month prior to the High Holy Days) is meant to be a time of personal reflection and spiritual preparation. This year, I found inspiration for this spiritual work in this short story written by Shel Silverstein.  It is called “The Missing Piece.” 

Once upon a time, there was a circle that was missing a piece and it was very unhappy.  It went all over the world looking for its missing piece.  Over hills and across rivers, up mountains and down into valleys, through rain and snow and blistering sun, it went looking for its missing piece.  Wherever it went, because it was missing a piece, it had to go very slowly.  

So as it went along, it stopped to look at the flowers and talk to the butterflies.  It stopped to rest in the cool grass.  Sometimes it passed a snail, and sometimes the snail passed it.  Wherever it went, it kept looking for its missing piece.
But it couldn’t find it.  Some pieces were too big, and some were too small; some were too square, and some were too pointy.  None of them fit.  

Then suddenly one day, it found a piece that seemed to fit perfectly.  The circle was whole again; nothing was missing.  It took the piece into itself and started to roll away.  

Now, because it was a whole unbroken circle, it could roll much faster.  And so it rolled quickly through the world, past the lakes and past the forests, too fast to get a good look at them.  It rolled too quickly to notice the flowers, too fast for any of the insects to fly by and talk to it.  

When the circle realized that it was rolling too fast to do any of the things it had been doing for years, it stopped.  It very reluctantly put down its missing piece, and it rolled slowly away, heading out into the world, looking for its missing piece.

When we feel complete, we move quickly through the world.  As a result, there is much that can escape our notice. 
Think of our lives before COVID-19.  Most of us had more places to go, more things to do, much more to distract us.  
The pandemic forced us to slow down. And in doing so, we may have noticed the “missing pieces” in our lives.  We may have noticed the ways in which we are broken.

Some of those missing pieces may be qualities within us.  We may not have been aware of our tendency to worry, of our impatience, or of our desire to control things we cannot control. Some of those missing pieces might be in our lack of understanding or knowledge about important news or topics. Some of those missing pieces might be in our relationships with others, or even in the loss of a sense of connection to the Divine Presence in our lives.

If we feel complete just as we are, we are deluding ourselves.  Each one of us is broken in some way.  The work of Elul is to notice these broken pieces – notice that which is missing from our lives – so that we may begin the work of repair.

This work is ongoing.  It is not limited to the month of Elul, although this is the time in which our tradition asks us to turn our attention to it. This work of searching for our missing pieces is vital to what it means to be fully human.

To be fully human means we are aware of our brokenness and our fragility.  And so, with each precious, new day, we move forward in the search to become more whole – while knowing that we can only be “fully complete” at the moment we draw our last breath. 

May our spiritual work in this time of Elul be fruitful and meaningful, as we collectively search for our missing pieces.


Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782