This new month of Elul is special and different. Throughout the month of Elul, we are directed to begin the process of reflection and personal discovery. Though many of us will gather together in synagogue for the celebration of Rosh Hashanah and the observance of Yom Kippur next month, we understand that we cannot simply appear on those days, unprepared and unaware. In order to fully experience our holiest of Holy Days, we must prepare ourselves, though study, prayer and self-reflection.
The themes of the Holy Days are complex and yet straightforward. However, each and every year we understand them differently, for we are different as individuals, and our world is certainly a changing place. As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we are in a time of comfort and consolation. This year in particular, after a challenging summer in our world, we need comfort and solace.
Our rabbis teach us that the month of Elul represents a process of courtship between ourselves and our God. The Hebrew word Elul, Aleph, Lamed, Vav, Lamed, is also understood as an abbreviation for Ani l’dodi v’Dodi li, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”, the famous quote from Song of Songs, often cited during Jewish wedding ceremonies.
During the month of Elul, the people of Israel and God rediscover one another, and in finding each other, prepare to meet one another during the Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In order for us to best utilize the month of Elul as a time of introspection and reflection, we are instructed to awaken our souls each and every day, to ideas, themes and concepts that will prepare us for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Each day, we hear the sound of the shofar, to wake up our spirits and call ourselves to teshuva, to repentance. We read psalms daily and might add other readings and reflections in this process of preparation.
This year, as we observe the month of Elul, I will share a daily thought, an idea that perhaps can help each of us to better open our hearts in preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Personally, if I don’t take the time to pause, reflect, read and consider a new way of looking at each day, at every interaction, then how will I be prepared for the themes of the Holy Days, of repentance, prayer and charity? How can I truly find a higher self? Join me in this journey: let our hearts soar, let our souls be awakened!
Rabbi Debbie Bravo