Elul and Preparing for the Days of Awe

on Sunday, 01 August 2010. Posted in Rabbi Marshall's Articles

The ORacle, August 2010 Issue

Judaism offers us an opportunity to prepare our hearts for the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. The entire month of Elul, the month before Rosh Hashana, is a time of reflection and introspection. A chance to reflect on the past year, sensitize ourselves to our mistakes and strive to rectify them. The Yamim Noraim are a time to re-orient ourselves. To reconnect with the person we aspire to be—the mother, father, partner, sibling, and friend we want to be for others, and the complete individual we want to be in our thoughts, deeds, and speech. But we cannot return to our true path unless we are prepared to search. This soul searching is reflected in the name of the Hebrew month itself, for Elul means searching in Aramaic.

Jewish mystics took the letters in the word Elul, alef, lamed, vav, lamed and found that a selection from Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs, the poems of love composed by King Solomon, contains the same acrostic. The words Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li, "I am my beloved and my beloved is mine," are words many Jews recite at their weddings or inscribe on their wedding bands. The mystics saw this month as a time when we can each experience the nearness of God's presence (Ani L’dodi). It is a month characterized by chesed, lovingkindness. God is not depicted as a harsh judge, instead we have the imagery of a love-relationship with the Eternal and a sweetening of God’s judgment.

Shir HaShirim continues, "His left hand is under my head and his right hand will embrace me." Maintaining this metaphor of the Eternal as a beloved partner, Elul is a time of mercy, imagined as a hand which embraces us.

During the month of Elul, Heidi Piel and I will be offering a weekly workshop as an opportunity to provide congregants with the space to reflect upon the past year, learn more about the customs associated with Elul, consider how we want to redirect ourselves, and support each other through the process. Please see more information about this workshop on page ____. The mystics teach that all that is required is an honest and true heart. We look forward to sharing this opportunity to search and reflect together.

G’mar chatimah tovah, May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for good.