This is a miracle story about a sweet turtle rescued on Tashlich following Rosh HaShanah services, just prior to Shabbat.
The magical morning began on second day Rosh HaShanah at the Temescal Canyon location of the Rosh HaShanah combined Jewish Spiritual Renewal service of B'nai Horin - Children of Freedom and Makom Ohr Shalom. Spiritual leaders included Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Stan Levy, Rabbi Debra Orenstein and Cantors Mark Bacharach and Monty Turner. Unexpected terrific guest leaders included cantorial soloist Craig Taubman, and a great surprise, sharing prayers and stories, Theodore Bikel, who was in deep loving Yiddishe embrace with his long-time dear friend, Reb Zalman.
Musicians included Rebbe Soul's Bruce Berger and flutist Richard Hardy. I had my timbrel to play in joy as the Torah was paraded in shul. Congregants included members from all the Renewal shuls. People had traveled far to come to this service. So many loving friends were present.
Following spiritually moving services, Tashlich on the Santa Monica beach with Rabbi Stan was an awesome experience, as it is every year. Toward the end of Tashlich I had gone looking for the beginning of the Sarah's Tent Tashlich ritual which I also participate in each year. It was supposedly being held in the same area as every year, but I never found it. That was beshert / meant to be.
After doing my own Tashlich ritual, I went back to rejoin B'nai Horin as I had heard that member and teacher, Rina Daly, was doing a later children's Shabbat program. I was talking to Ronit, another B'nai Horin member, as only a few of us were left on the beach after Tashlich. Suddenly I saw a few members huddle together and curious to see what I anticipated was an ocean find, I excused myself and ran to the water's edge.
Jony Goode (Rina's husband) was holding a turtle! Jony had found the turtle, about six inches of shell length, in the ocean. Karen Golden, a long time Sarah's Tent friend and renowned storyteller, quickly exclaimed that this was not an ocean turtle but a freshwater turtle. Jony had rescued the turtle from an unfriendly environment on Tashlich. This is a day of rescuing our souls from our sins.
We decided that maybe someone thought they were liberating the turtle by putting it into the ocean. We all became part of the rescue team. When Karen said the turtle was not in the right environment for him, I decided the turtle would be happier if he had a purification with healing water.
I took out my bottle of spring water and gently poured it over the turtle, beginning with its head. The turtle clearly liked the fresh water as s/he began to stretch out far it's head and all four legs. I think the turtle was really happy to have healthy water. S/he had been more hidden in its shell until given fresh water. The turtle was happy in Karen's hands Another friend, Charlotte Lynn, joined in with more bottled water. Turtle was loving it.
Karen's daughters, Hyla and her younger sister, looked on in glee as their mom was holding the newly found creature. While Karen held the turtle, I then began to pet the turtle's head with a single finger. I continued to stroke the head as the turtle looked at me with it's sweet grateful eyes. The turtle liked for me to stroke its head. I felt I had connected to the turtle's soul. It was a day for Tshuvah / returning to soul.
Karen pointed out the little red color by the eyes, being even more sure that this was not an ocean turtle. Karen said the turtle was underweight, and also that it's shell had been affected by the salt water. Karen exclaimed that she had three turtles in a pond at home and could care for this one. She said that there is even a monthly Friday turtle club. Karen's husband expressed concern for the other turtles in case the new swimmer joined them. I asked Jony for permission if Karen could be a foster mom for the turtle that he had rescued, until the time that Jony and Rina had a proper place to care for the turtle.
Purifying ourselves by throwing our sins into the ocean with proxy bread, and reading poetry on healing waters, by the healing water, we were able to purify our High Holiday turtle with pure spring water! Turtle was given a mikveh to be cleansed. This is a renewed turtle and happy to join community.
Rina began her Shabbat family program and the turtle was at its first (I am sure) Shabbat celebration. Abby sang songs and prayers on guitar as Rina led us into Shabbat with candle, challah and wine on the beach. I knew that I may be late for the evening Erev Shabbat service with Reb Zalman in the Valley at Makom Ohr Shalom, but I was enjoying this beach community Shabbat celebration and especially with the Shabbat Tashlich turtle.
Rina explained that the empty snail shells she had brought to share, were a metaphor for us humans allowing our souls to expand beyond the protective shell. Our Shabbat turtle is a maven on protecting himself in his shell, his makom / home.
I realized that, Beshert, I had missed the Sarah's Tent gathering so that I could participate in the Shabbat rescue of the Tashlich Turtle and help renew it's soul. "Return Again, Return Again, Return To The Land Of Your Soul." (song by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach)