This week we read
This Shabbat is also Shabbat Mevarchim, literally, "the Sabbath that blesses" as we announce and bless the new month of Elul that begins tomorrow night. Elul is a most special month on the calendar, not only because it is the month that leads into the High Holy Days, but because of the special energy and opportunity it offers us, if we choose to tap into it.
Elul is a month of preparation for the High Holy Days. The High Holy Days are spiritual exercises and in order to get the maximum benefit from them, it's also a good idea to warm up our 'spiritual ovens'! The good news is that it's easier to do in Elul than to wait until you walk into High Holy Day services in Tishrei (the month in which Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall....also Sukkot and Simchat Torah!). Here's why:
On Rosh Hashanah, the Sovereign (God) ascends the 'throne' and sits in judgment (din), but in Elul, God is more accessible. It is as if God had been traveling and is now on the way home to the palace, standing outside and greeting us without the formality, predisposed to granting requests and listening, happy to be with us because we are loved and give love in return. One source from which this idea derives is that Elul is an acronym for: Ani l'dodi v'dodi li, I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine (from The Song of Songs). God is our beloved, and we are God's beloved, but we have to do our part in acknowledging the relationship, including if we feel let down or frustrated by that relationship!
In Aramaic (the language of the Talmud), the word Elul means 'searching'. The specific teaching is that we now have an opportunity to embark on a journey in search of our truest selves, which is the essence of the word teshuvah that is so frequently repeated at the High Holy Days as meaning 'repentance'. Really, it is (re) turning, to our truest godly, holy core. Transformation is possible! In order to have the kind of spiritual High Holy Days that most of us seek, we need to do the work now, and do our searching (cheshbon ha-nefesh....literally 'an accounting of our soul') to see where we have fallen short, where we are stuck, and what is getting in the way of our moving forward and reaching our potential, be it in the area of physical health, emotional health, relationships with friends, family, community, and/or God. Rebbe Nachman taught: if you have the power to break, you need to believe that you also have the power to heal...
The Chasidim have imagery of God being with us in the fields, consoling us, reaching out to us, if only we will reach back!
I invite you to join me on this 40-day spiritual practice of preparing for the High Holy Days, starting with Rosh Chodesh (the new month) of Elul (tomorrow night) through Yom Kippur, each day setting aside some time to consider what it means to (re) turn to our true selves, what blocks us from getting there, unmasking our souls, and healing our broken hearts through honesty with ourselves and compassion for all, including ourselves and those who have hurt us. Find what is vital and whole within yourself and strengthen it. Find what is broken and not in alignment with your soul's purpose and repair it. It's the journey of a lifetime...most important one you'll ever make, and we get to do it every year at this time.
Maximize the potential of these days! Join us for Kabbalat Shabbat next Friday, August 17th for our Welcome Back Wine & Cheese Open House Kabbalat Shabbat!. We'll start at 6:15 p.m. with wine & cheese plus activities for K-8th graders (led by our YEP! staff). Services will begin at 7:00 p.m., with an ice cream social Oneg following.
Then on Saturday, September 1st, join us for an engaging Selichot program starting with Havdalah. And of course, please join us for the High Holy Days, beginning with our Rosh Hashanah evening service on Sunday, September 9th. You'll find details in the weekly Kehillah Connections. Invite a friend to share the experience. We're happy to welcome you to our 'family'.