We are entering the year of תשעז 5777. There is a little game that some of us play. We take the letters/numbers and form a word that will emphasize the depth of meaning of the New Year. This year, the word found within the number/letters is Ohz (עז). Ohz has many meanings: Seek refuge, to fortify, bring to safety, to dare, to venture to be strong, powerful, courageous, sharp, vigorous, bright (as in color), intense, energetic, firm, and possessing fortitude.
With that understanding and with a little prompting from my belovedest a story bubbled up. The story also contains a play on other Hebrew words appropriate to this sacred season. There are many levels to this stories, I hope you enjoy.
(Halacha הלכה means Jewish Law but more accurately is Path or ‘way to go’)
(Shana שנה means year, but is also means change and teaching)
(Shana Tovah שנה טובה means a good New Year and Good Changes and Good teaching/Learning).
The other translations found in this piece are taken from the Siddur/Prayer book and from Torah, our Sacred Guide.
The Wizard of Oz (Ohz)
I had a dream the other night. I was on a ‘yellow brick road.’ I was on a path (Halacha הלכה). As I walked the path I discovered an old woman with an old dog. I asked where she was headed. She said she was on the road to Oz (pronounced Ohz). She hoped that when she reached Oz, the wizard would help her return (Teshuvah תשובה) home. She said: “I just want it to be like it was at the beginning (mehadeash bchal yom ma’aseh braeshit מעשה בראשית מחדש בכל יום). We walked together for a while in silence as I pondered her words. Why was I on this road (Halacha הלכה), I wondered. We walked on together.
Sometimes the path was narrow, sometimes wide. There were forks in the road and some spoons, but we continued. After a while we met a strange man on the same path (Halacha הלכה). He had long, wild blond hair that looked like straw. He was thin and his clothes were old and disheveled. He looked like a scarecrow. He fell in with us as we walked on. I asked where he was going. He responded that he was on his way to Oz (Ohz עז). He had come from the east where things were very muddled. And living in the muddled east his mind had become muddled. He said that he was having trouble recognizing what were soulful (nafshecha נפשך) thoughts and what were scattered daydreams. He was hoping that when he reached Oz, he might find change (Shana שנה) to make him more mindful of his world and his soul (nafshecha נפשך). I thought about his words silently as we walked on together. The scarecrow seemed to have a much clearer vision of how to proceed than the old woman or me. We continued down that yellow brick road. It seemed that the muddle minded scarecrow was leading us in quite a soulful way. It was a tiring, windy path. After a day or two, we came upon a man, davenin (praying) in a very formal way. He didn’t seem to be paying attention to what he was doing. His davenin was stilted and stiff, without heart. We waited politely as he sped through his prayers. When he finished, he packed his Tfillin and Talis and threw his pack on his back and said in a very cold and formal way: “May I join you?” “Of course,” answered the old woman. “Where are you going?” “I am headed to the city of Oz” he answered.” I have been told that it is a place of great changes (Shana Tovah שנה טובה). I hope that there I can find a way that my davenin and my whole life will become more heartfelt (levavecha לבבך). I don’t want to live my life as a tin man, I want to feel. I want to love, I want to give.” Did I see a tear in the eye of this martinet? I politely looked away. The scarecrow of a man said: “Then join us. I am going to Oz hoping to find change (Shana שנה) too. I want to be more mindful. This lady wants to return (Teshuvah תשובה) home and this man…” He looked at me but I turned away. The “tin man” turned and led the way in a formal march on the road and we followed. After a while, the old woman began to limp. The scarecrow of a man was mindful enough to notice before anyone else. The tin man heartfully insisted that we stop. He knelt in front of the old woman as she sat on a rock near the path. He began to massage her feet, compassionately. The scarecrow of a man looked around and judged that it would be better to rest here overnight. The tin man set a place for the old woman to rest. She thanked him, saying: “People used to be as considerate and kind as you are, young sir.” He smiled for the first time since we met him. The scarecrow set about making our overnight home comfortable and safe. He concentrated in a mindful way as he made our little spot a home, at least for the night. I sat by the side of the path finding comfort being near our path (Halacha הלכה), even though I was not completely on that path. The scarecrow thoughtfully lay at the head of our little troupe. The tin man laid his head near the old woman in a comforting, protectful, heartful gesture. We awoke to find a big burly man with a long furry hair darting this way and that. He was mumbling to himself. The kindly old woman approached him, the tin man and scarecrow at her side. She asked: “What are you doing, you great lion of a man?” He turned and jumped back surprised by her question. “I am determined to follow this path…unless you have a better idea. No, no I must get to the city of Oz (Ohz). Or maybe I shouldn’t.” The scarecrow of a man put his hand on the shoulder of this lion of a man and said: “Focus, my friend. Where do you wish to go and why?” The wild bearded lion of a man said: “I don’t know, I make a decision then I second guess myself. I think something is important and I vow to fulfill that belief but then I let others convince me to abandon my ideals, my direction. I don’t even know what I am doing here anymore. The scarecrow of a man shook his long blonde straw colored hair and replied: “Well, of course what you do is your choice. Let me tell you what we are doing and maybe you will decide to join us. It is totally up to you. We are going to the city of Oz. We believe that it is a place of good changes (Shana Tovah שנה טובה). This lady wants her life to return (Teshuvah השובה) to the good way.” The lion of a man asked “and what way is that?” The tin man, who was listening, responded: “Each of us have to determine that for ourselves. What is home, what is the good way is different for each of us.” The scarecrow nodded sagely. Then the tin man added: “I am seeking a heartful path (levavecha לבבך). The scarecrow added: ” and I seek mindfulness that is soulful (nafshecha נפשך) and real, to become more self-aware.” The scarecrow of a man continued: ” I am hoping that Oz, that city of change (Shana שנה) will help me recognize what are real and soulful (nafshecha נפשך) thoughts and what are just dream walking through life.” He continued that he was hoping that when he reached Oz, he might find change (Shana שנה) to make him more mindful of his world and his soul (nafshecha נפשך). The lion of a man looked at each of us and replied: “May I come with you?” The old woman, with a twinkle in her eye asked: “Are you sure?” The lion of a man thought for a minute, hesitated and then said: “Yes! I am sure. I need to find the courage to apply myself fully (me’odecha מאודך) with good intentions to better myself and our world.”
As we walked on following one fork or another of the path (Halacha הלכה) I began to notice my companions. The lion of a man seemed to grow with determination as we strode down the road. His conviction and intensity (me’odecha (מאודך of intension (Kavanah כוונה) blossomed with each mile. The tin man was becoming more fluid in his heartful (levavecha לבבך) caring for the old woman. He seemed to have forgotten himself in his desire to help her and all of us. The scarecrow of a man seemed to look clearly at our path. His steps seemed to bounce with soulful (nafshecha נפשך) clarity as we advanced. But most remarkable was the old woman. She seemed to be getting younger as we walked. There was a spring in her step as she gazed at the world around her, recognizing that our world is constantly renewed (mehadeash bchal yom ma’aseh braeshit מחדש בכל יום מעשה בראשית) in every moment. The journey to Oz (Ohz עוז) continued and the changes (Shana שנה) became more evident to me. Those changes seemed to fill me with fortitude and inner power (ohz עז) for changes (Shana שנה) that I needed for my life. Finally we were approaching the gates of Oz, (Ohz עז), that city of good changes (Shana Tovah שנה טובה). I felt a sense of excitement and hope for my own future. As we reached those gates, I extended my hands grasping the gate and turned to my colleagues, my new friends. But they were gone. I stood alone at the gates of Oz (Ohz עז) the city of good change (Shana Tovah שנה טובה) alone and ready to make those good changes (Shana Tovah שנה טובה).