Friday, August 6, 2021/28 Av, 5781
Parashat R’eih Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17
The High Holy Days are quickly approaching. This Sunday evening is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the final Hebrew month of the year. With just 29 days until Rosh Hashanah, we are aware that a new Jewish year is around the corner—one that we hope is filled with more healing and joy than the last.
The month of Elul affords us the opportunity to prepare for a new beginning. The Rabbis explain that the month of Elul is an acronym for the phrase Ani L’dodi v’dodi li, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3) These are words of deep connection and commitment—words that brides and grooms often vow to one another under the chuppah, wedding canopy. By focusing on this phrase, the Rabbis are underlying the importance of repairing our relationships before the new year begins.
During Elul, we reflect on the mistakes we have made and the good that we have done. We make promises for the new year and work to repair our relationship with God and with ourselves.
The Rabbis also stress the importance of the mitzvah adam l’chaveiro, taking time to strengthen our relationships with other human beings. As we work on our spiritual health, so too do we nurture our connections with those we love and those with whom we are in community.
Last year, we offered a daily Elul program that included prayers, the shofar blast, and reflections on resilience and faith by temple family members. This year, Temple Beth El will have a similar program. Beginning on Monday morning, you will receive an email featuring different congregants sharing stories about their Jewish journey or their connection to the Jewish community. These messages will continue until September 6th, when the new year formally begins.
The submissions I received are diverse, thoughtful, and inspiring. When you read these pieces, I encourage you to reach out to the people who wrote them. Our temple community is incredibly special, but it grows more remarkable still when we take time to forge sacred connections with one another.
I hope you enjoy this year’s Elul program as much as I am.
Looking for other ways to prepare for the High Holy Day season? CCAR press just created a new app (for iOS or Google Play) with meditations, readings, music and prompts for reflection on High Holy Day themes. It is based on Debra Robbins book Opening Your Heart with Psalm 27: A Spiritual Practice for the Jewish Year, which provided much of the inspiration for last year’s Elul reflections.
Today, I am beginning my first Shabbat at Camp Newman, where I am serving on faculty for the next couple of weeks. I hope you all have an inspiring, joyous, and uplifting couple of weeks. I look forward to seeing you when I return.
Rabbi Cassi Kail