Rabbi’s Review – August 2021

Elul Project: The Stories of Our Lives

Rabbi Cassi Kail


“Storytelling,” explains author Robert McKee, “is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”

Our Jewish tradition is based on stories. The Torah includes narratives about our people’s moral, spiritual, and communal evolution. It describes tales of struggle and faith, interpersonal challenges and triumphs, failures and successes. Each of these stories is a mirror into the soul, calling us to reflect on ourselves and our world. Our tradition calls us to study with others to expand our own understanding of the Torah by listening to the insights of others. When we study Torah, we not only learn the tales penned long ago, but we also explore the Torah of our own lives today.

As a rabbi, I am privileged to hear families’ stories after a loved one dies. At funerals, I often hear, even from the deceased closest family and friends, “Wow. There is so much I didn’t know about them. I wish I had known about this when they were alive.”

So many of our stories often go unspoken. And yet, there is such power in sharing them. I was recently in a meeting with temple leaders. We began the discussion by asking participants to share the Torah of their own lives—sharing the story of their Jewish journey. When given the opportunity, group members shared fascinating, multi-faceted, and inspiring stories about the centrality of the Jewish community in their own lives. As I listened, I realized I needed to foster more opportunities for telling and listening to one another’s stories.

I am proud to announce that this year’s Elul Reflections will do just that. The Hebrew month of Elul is the final month on the Jewish calendar, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. It is traditionally a time of introspection as we prepare ourselves for a new Jewish year.

Throughout the month of Elul (August 9th to September 6th), everyone on the temple email list will receive a message containing a narrative written by a different Temple Beth El family member. I encourage you to read them and reach out to the writers to discuss them. I hope that this project continues to bring our community closer together—not just physically, as our temple doors begin to open—but relationally as well.

There will be more opportunities to share our stories throughout the year, especially as we inch towards our temple’s 100th anniversary. I hope you will choose to participate.