Throughout the month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, I will be sharing daily reflections to help each of us prepare for the upcoming High Holy Day Season. I hope these thoughts inspire each of us to make time, find the energy and initiate some passion as we reflect and examine this past year, in preparation for the year to come.
In Hebrew, there is a system of letters counting as numbers, called Gematria. An aleph stands for 1, a bet for two, and so forth. Tonight begins the 28th day of the month of Elul, otherwise known as kaf, chet (20+8). The Hebrew word kaf-chet is koach, or strength. (This is a typical way of coordinating certain numbers with words.)
How fitting that two days before Rosh Hashanah we are focusing on strength. It is not easy to enter into a New Year as our text teaches, with focus, consideration and observation. Neither is it easy to do teshuvah, repentance, or slichah, forgiveness.
And yet, we are commanded to do both, and so we ask for strength, today and in this New Year. It takes koach, strength, to reach deep down into our souls, to share intimate thoughts and concerns, to apologize and to accept apology. Sometimes, asking for strength allows us to realize the strength that exists within us, that we never knew we had.
I remember being a child, perhaps a teenager, when there was a huge storm that flooded the local damns and rivers. Our neighborhood growing up was a few blocks from a small lake, and though we experienced a mere four feet of water in our basement, for many it was much worse. A close family friend, who lived on the cul-de-sac backing up to the lake, had water heading up to her second level of the house. One could only get to her home and the homes around her by boat, for the streets were that badly flooded. She was divorced, living in the home with her two girls, and was about five feet tall.
I am not sure how, but she hoisted her living room couch, which had value to her, and carried it upstairs to her bedroom. I am certain she did not have any idea the kind of strength that was within her, nor has she necessarily seen that strength again, but in the moment when she needed it most, she exerted great strength.
We all have a strength within us far beyond what we realize. The strength to do right; the strength to see beyond ourselves; the physical strength to help and do what is necessary in crucial and pivotal times.
During these upcoming Days of Awe,
May we have the strength to look inward.
May we have the strength to listen, and to be heard.
May we have the strength to do teshuvah, to repent.
May we have the strength to ask for forgiveness,
And forgive others.
Rabbi Debbie Bravo
Now let the sound of the shofar be heard;
And let our souls be awakened!
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