By Rabbi Elisa Koppel
My friend and colleague Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, is coordinating BlogElul, through which participants are using social media (blogging, but also other tools) to engage in reflection as we go through this month of preparation, leading up to the high holy days. I encourage you to follow the posts and join in with your own writing. Today’s theme is Inventory. Here’s the full list:
I just moved. The idea of inventory is quite apparent to me at the moment. My life is in who knows how many boxes, most of them not yet unpacked.
And there it is. My life in boxes. It always amazes me to see my entire home fit into a truck like a bizarre version of 3D Tetris. To see everything I own all wrapped up and in one place. And then to watch it all come out of the truck and into the rooms that are just beginning to become mine.
I have to say, I’m kind of excited about unpacking. While I loathe packing (I don’t like it when I have to go away for a weekend, I like it even less when I need to move), I enjoy unpacking…at least when I’m moving After a trip, especially a good trip, it’s one of life’s minor annoyances. But unpacking in a new home can be a great process.
For one thing, taking a space and making it home is powerful. From figuring out where everything goes, to the little touches here and there that leave accents of me sprinkled throughout the rooms. With this particular move, I’m in a brand new place, and had something of a journey to figure out where I was going to be–some I’m particularly joyful and excited to make this new place my home.
Then there’s fun of finding things. Those things that I had forgotten about that show up in the bottom of a box and make me smile. Those things that just make me happy when I see them. Or those things that I really need, that it’s such a relief to find (like a frying pan, plate and some silverware–maybe a pot–would be quite a pleasure some time before dinner).
But my favorite part is seeing all these items, and considering how they got to be mine, or when and where I was when I got them. Some things more than others are symbolic of so much more than the items they are. They are my life, my history, my story.
Like the antique mannequin that is one of three that my grandfather kept after he closed his children’s clothing store many years before I was born…which sat in their basement covered in a sheet (family legend has it that the first time my uncle saw the 3 mannequins, he thought they were ghosts). Her name is Mabel and she’s been with me since my second year of Rabbinical School.
Or the end tables that were once in the home of my Great Aunt and Great Uncle.
Or that piece of furniture known as “The Thingie,” which I bought at Ikea in my very first apartment in New York with my best friend. We knew what we wanted (something that had glass shelves and a door, to display things that would fit perfectly into the corner where we envisioned it would go) but we didn’t know what to call it, so we said we needed a thingie for that corner. The name stuck.
Or the breakfront that was my grandmother’s.
As I get off the computer and leave Starbuck’s and head back up to my apartment, may I appreciate the unpacking process, and use it to reflect on my life, as I enter this new phase of my journey, and create a new home.
Rabbi Elisa Koppel is the Acting Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, TX. You can read more of her thoughts at her personal blog: Off the REKord where she writes about Elul, Judaism, life, and sometimes pop culture and politics.