The Hebrew month of Elul begins August 17. The entire month of Elul, the month before Rosh HaShanah, 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, Days of Awe, 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 seek 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.

The ORacle, August 2012 Issue

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’s 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 the Eternal’s presence (Ani L’dodi). It is a month characterized by chesed, loving kindness. We don’t use the metaphor of the Transcendent as a harsh judge. Instead we have the imagery of a love relationship with the Eternal and a sweetening of God’s judgment.

For me, the beauty of our tradition is the recognition that chet (the ways we miss the mark) and teshuvah (returning to our truest selves) are necessary prerequisites for connection to the Eternal. Judaism never expects perfection, just that we always strive to refine ourselves.

For four weeks beginning Thursday, August 23, Heidi Piel will be offering an opportunity for learning and discussion, within a sacred space, to reflect upon the past year, learn more about the customs associated with Elul, consider how we want to redirect ourselves, support each other through the process, and hear the shofar blown as our spiritual wake up call. To learn more about the class or to RSVP, call Heidi. The mystics teach that all that is required is an honest and true heart. Consider this opportunity to search and reflect together.

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