When contemplating this month’s message, we are on the cusp of the month of Elul, the very beginning of the time for t’shuvah. We have heard many folk lament that the Holy Days are especially ‘late’ this year. Actually, they are the same time every year, beginning on the first of Tishrei! This seemingly ‘extra time’, gave us an opportunity for our message to look at the month of Elul and the ‘soul work’ we are commanded to do along with a few ideas for the time we have just in front of us. As expected, our research paths seemed to return (pun intended) to the theme of t’shuvah, ‘turning back’ or repentance. This is the month that we are we are called to attend to the repair and healing of ourselves, and our relationships, in a very deliberate way.
The month of Elul, begins at sunset on August 31, 2019. Elul is the only month that does not have a holiday, a feast day, a fast day, or a memorial. Is this a coincidence? Did the sages understand that we Jews need time to prepare spiritually for the days ahead? The shofar is traditionally sounded every day of the month of Elul. Are those blasts meant to remind us each day that we must attend to our tasks of t’shuvah? What are those tasks and how do we “do” t’shuvah? To no great surprise, we found conflicting information on the internet from rabbis that had many differing opinions. The number of steps ranged from three to fourteen or more! For simplicity’s sake, the three steps are listed as 1) Remorse 2) Confession and 3) Resolution for the future. These three steps sound so easy yet are so difficult to accomplish!
Our TBE community’s collective soul should also have the same focus this time of year, and year-round for that matter. Have there been mistakes and errors of judgment? Of course there have. Have we not been as loving to someone else in our community as we could have? We venture to say that we all can agree on that. As we look forward, let’s work for the betterment of our entire community, to do what’s right for Temple Beth El as a whole and not focus on just the few, to 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 Daniel the Tiger teaches preschoolers, “when something seems bad, turn it around and find something good.” We have the will to turn our challenges into opportunities, change gossip based on misconception into discussions that are fact-based and most of all, turn acrimony into comradery. As we hear the shofar sounds this month, may we all be energized to make 5780 a year of goodness, love, forgiveness, tolerance, and understanding for each other as we nurture the entire TBE family and our spiritual home.