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Thoughts for Elul

Shalom and thank you for checking out our String of Pearls website!

As you read this we are well into the month of Elul, the time in the Jewish calendar in which we prepare for the High Holidays ahead. In Elul, we take a good, long, hard look at where we are spiritually, in a spirit of repentance ahead of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The name of the month of Elul is an acronym for “Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li”—I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”. This famous line—often used in the Jewish wedding ceremony in the exchange of rings—is found in the Song of Songs, and refers to God and the Jewish people exchanging vows of fidelity to one another. In the month of Elul, we begin the journey of finding our way back to our truest relationship with our highest self and our connection to godliness. Interestingly, in Aramaic, the vernacular of the ancient Jew, the word Elul means “search”. This is the time in which we search deeply into our hearts to find our way back to the best version of ourselves.

According to our tradition, the month of Elul was the time that Moses spent on Mt. Sinai getting ready to descend with the second set of tablets containing the Ten Commandments, after he shattered the first set upon seeing the Israelite people worshiping a golden calf. During this time, our tradition tells us, Moses prayed to God to forgive the people for this infidelity and to establish a new covenant with this imperfect people. This was the first act of teshuvah, of making an effort to turn away from our baser selves, and to turn toward our best and most godly selves.

While we are no longer likely to build literal golden calves, like our spiritual ancestors, we can all to easily fall prey to “worshiping” that which beckons to us as the newest, the shiniest, the most expedient. Like our ancestors, we struggle with the difficulties of choosing the path that takes the most effort, commitment, and patience and is ultimately the most sustainable.

In a world which is changing by the minute and sometimes seems to be spinning out of control, the rhythm of the Jewish calendar can bring us an abiding sense of comfort and of compassion. Each year, no matter how we have erred and missed the mark, we have a chance to begin again. The wisdom of Judaism is that the gates of teshuvah, of return, are never closed.

As Moses was able to bring a new set of tablets as a new blueprint to help an erring people to begin again, so too can we—through reflection, intention and contrition—reset our moral compass and place ourselves back on our true spiritual journey.

Please join us as we come together to dedicate ourselves to this work of renewal, beginning with our Elul gathering on Sunday, September 10, and then again as we bring in the possibilities of the new year, on Rosh Hashanah and again on Yom Kippur. Whether you are a “regular” at our communal events, an occasional fellow traveler, or checking us out for the first time, we invite and welcome your participation.

Wishing you a reflective and rewarding Elul!

Rabbi Marsha

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