BLOG WITH RABBI JUDIAHAVAH
Rabbi JudiAhavah DelBourgo
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign!
September 21, 2022
It is so good to pray together in whatever way we
can. For those of us who prayed at Makom in
person this past Shabbat, hopefully the evening
drive went smoothly.
Recently while driving on a nice long straight-
away, I noticed a car behind me, weaving in and
out of lanes in order to pass. Eventually, this car
came up directly behind me. When I stopped for a
red light I was very aware that this other car came
dangerously close to my car.
When the light turned green, it was clear that my
car, and all the cars in front of us were not going
fast enough to this driver's liking. The driver found
a way to squeeze into the right lane but
unfortunately for him, that lane was also crowded
and also became a moving roadblock.
For a few minutes I had this car in my peripheral
vision. I couldn't help but notice the license plate. It
looked to read "STRNGOOD." It seemed to
represent a shortened version of "STRONG
My first thought was "Someone trying to be
stronger than others, trying to run other people out
of the way? What kind of strength is that?"
Then a couple of minutes later, I found myself
behind this car at a red light. Now I could clearly
see the license plate, which actually read
"SIGNGOD", which could mean "Sign God", or
“Sign from God”.
Oh, that was ironic - a sign from God from another
driver rushing around endangering themselves and
Could it have been a sign from God that we rush
around dangerously? That couldn't be...
So what sign was the Holy One of Blessing trying
to give me in that moment?
What blessing could I wrestle from those
harrowing and frustrating moments on the road?
It was so easy to focus on this driver’s dangerous
actions, and even make the driver himself wrong.
But then I remembered a wise reaching from my
Rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Kligler: “We never know
what's going on with people.” I THINK I know.
But I don’t.
I started to wonder, maybe someone is ill, and this
person needs to get to a loved one's emergency or
bedside. Maybe they planned their time poorly, as I
All the while, it was possible the driver was being
absorbed with "self",
Perhaps the "Sign from God" was to give the
benefit of the doubt. There's actually a Talmudic
term for this - Dan L'kaf ZeChut. And it's a
mitzvah! Yes, giving the benefit of the doubt is
actually a mitzvah.
Maybe, just maybe, the sign was to remember it's
the month of Elul.
This month of Elul, preceding Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur, is NOT the month of pointing out
what’s wrong with other people. Rather, after this
month of introspection, on Kol Nidre, we will stand
together with all those who drive dangerously close
to us, and with those who offend us in a myriad of
ways. Elul is about looking at ourselves, asking
where we can be better. When judgment arises like
it did about that driver, can we look inward to
witness our part?
In those moments of experiencing the dangerous
driving of another person, I became critical and my
mood immediately shifted. I completely forgot
about loving my neighbor as myself. I completely
forgot about giving the benefit of the doubt. I also
momentarily forgot that sometimes I, too, can get
impatient and try to find ways to get around traffic
(albeit safely- or so I like to think!)
What are the "God Signs" in your life?
Might they be there to remind us to give the benefit
of the doubt? Or that perhaps we also do similar
things, the very actions we judge harshly?
We choose how to see the experiences and signs
around us. Even when we are surrounded by a
situation where another person doesn’t seem to be
respectful, helpful, or even safe, can we use this
powerful season of introspection to be the people
we want to have around us?
What is your "God Sign" calling you to be?
Of what critique of others is your “God Sign”
calling you to let go?
As we travel the road of Elul, look for the gifts, the
messages your soul wants you to see.
Safe and happy "travels" on your journey!
While Elul is the month where we concentrate on
returning to and being our best selves, it’s also
traditional to examine our soul each night with the
Bedtime Shema. Talmud (Brachot) tells us we
should return, do teshuva, one day before death.
But how can we know when the day of your death
will come? Therefore, we return (some read as
repent) each night.