Day 4 – An Ordinary Miracle

echoes-of-elul-20154 Elul 5775
by Cantor Shannon McGrady Bane

Shannon Bane - Echoes of Elul 2015An ordinary miracle. An amazing, yet completely explainable miracle is taking place in my front yard. Our century plant has started to bloom.

Gardeners are nodding their heads in understanding For the rest of us, allow me to explain.

When we left for vacation, the bloom stalk on our century plant was chest high. I did not realize what thatmeant. Ten days later — and ten feet later — yes, really, ten days and ten feet — the bloom stalk was taller than my house! Did Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk plant a magic bean in my front yard?

This is expected behavior for a century plant, but it was completely unexpected for us. Apparently, century plants, which typically live 15-30 years and not a century, pour all their life’s energy into thatbloom stalk. It grows and grows at an incredible rate, flowers for a few short weeks, and then dies from the effort.

Then Adonai said: “You pitied the gourd, which you neither worked for nor grew, which appeared overnight and perished overnight. Should I, then, not have compassion for the great city of Nineveh….? (Jonah 4:10-11)*

An ordinary miracle, yet such an important lesson — and surprisingly reminiscent of Jonah’s gourd too. The century plant reminds me to pay attention to my surroundings, to pause and truly take note of the miracles of growth and change. How incredible it is that seeds have within themselves the capacity to expand and become something new. Growth, in its essence, is a wondrous mystery. How often have we marveled at the growth of a child!

Shannon Bane - Echoes of Elul 20152In Your sight a thousand years pass in an instant,
like a fleeting watch in the night. But how brief the span of our lives!
Our years flow by in a dream; we sleep away our days.
In the morning we blossom in beauty; in the evening we wither away.
Burnt like grass in the blasting heat of summer,
we perish like chaff on the wind.

So teach us to number our days,
that we may bring home a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:4-6, 12)*


In this month of Elul, as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we pray for inner growth and renewal. We cultivate mindfulness. We tend to our relationships, and we hope for wisdom and grace in the season ahead.

Wishing each of you a sweet, healthy, and peaceful year.

*As translated in Mishkan HaNefesh. Jonah is the haftarah reading for Yom Kippur afternoon, and Psalm 90 is part of the Yizkor memorial service, which is also on Yom Kippur afternoon.

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