President’s Post – September 2017

Elul-minating Teshuvah

Eric Imley & Gale Swartz, Co-Presidents

When contemplating this month’s message, which is traditionally the ‘High Holy Day’ article, we wanted to do something a little different, but didn’t know exactly what. All of our searching seemed to return (pun intended) to the theme of teshuvah, ‘turning back’ or repentance. We thought that we’d leave the deep soul cleaning our very capable clergy and focus on two other areas.

The Hebrew letters that comprise the word Elul—alef, lamed, vav, lamed—are an acronym for Ani l’ dodi v’ dodi li, from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Usually it is love poetry between a man and a woman. The phrase can also reflect the love between God and the Jewish people, especially at this time of year. How cool is that? Can this thought possibly be extrapolated to the relationships that we have within our TBE community?

The month Elul, began at sunset on August 22, 2017. Elul is the only month that does not have a holiday, a feast day, a fast day or a memorial, but includes the Selihot Service. Perhaps the sages understood that we Jews need time to prepare spiritually for the days ahead.

What is the mysterious shofar that is so central to the High Holy Days? The shofar horn can be from any kosher animal, except for those of cows or oxen. Around the world, the horns of the ram, goat, antelope, sheep, gazelle, ibex and kudu (whatever that is) are used. A shofar can be straight (Sephardic) or bent (Ashkenazic). Polish rabbis taught that this bending symbolizes the bending of the human heart as it turns to G-d. During Elul and Rosh HaShanah, there will be up to 129 blasts. That’s a lot of blasts!

Our TBE community’s collective soul can also use some focus this time of year, and year-round for that matter. Let’s all strive to work for the betterment of the entire community, to do what’s right for Temple Beth El as a whole, and not focus on just the few. Let’s work together and look for ways to bridge differences of opinions with kindness and respect, to be even more welcoming to others and practice ‘audacious hospitality’ and inclusion.

PJ Library’s character Daniel the Tiger teaches preschoolers, “when something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.” Let’s turn our challenges into opportunities, change gossip based on misconception into discussions that are fact based, and most of all, turn acrimony into camaraderie. As we hear the shofar sounds this year, may we all be energized to make 5778 a year of goodness, love, forgiveness, acceptance and understanding for each other as we nurture the entire TBE family and our spiritual home.