This year we find ourselves in an Elul unlike any other we have experienced. We are trying to look ahead to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with hope and optimism at a time when in many ways our lives look unrecognisable, and the present can feel very dark indeed. It would be dishonest to approach the month ahead in the normal way. The wisdom and genius of the Jewish tradition is that it has a rich language to name all of the different experiences we encounter in our lives.
I am grateful to my wonderful colleagues of the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors of Australia, New Zealand and Asia. In the midst of an ever-changing landscape and the immense challenges of re-creating the High Holy Days for our current reality, they have offered some reflections to bring us through the month of Elul. At the same time, our clergy are so busy at the moment that we have not been able to provide as many reflections as in the past. And so I will also be sharing words of wisdom from other sources as well. The Central Conference of American Rabbis has kindly given us permission to use their own beautiful resource for Elul, so I will be interspersing their teachings with our own. I will also be drawing on other creative works to fill out this month. I hope these daily reflections are a source of light for you as we move towards the possibility of bringing healing to our suffering world.
-- Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Beit Shalom Synagogue, Adelaide, South Australia
Here is the CCAR's reflection for the 1st day of Elul, along with some questions for meditation:
Psalm 27: "Adonai Ori - God is my light"
Traditionally, this psalm is read every day of Elul. Its verses reflect a range of human emotion and a wavering sense of faith appropriate to these days of spiritual struggle. The speaker’s confident serenity is disrupted by an anxious awareness of surrounding threats. Not certainty but quest is the dominant mood: the search for light, peace, and strength in tumultuous times. The last verse —“wait for Adonai”— suggests the value of repeated rraecitation of the psalm.
Courage and inner peace come with patience, discipline, and development of a spiritual practice.
-- Rabbi Janet Marder and Rabbi Sheldon Marder, Mishkan HaLev: Prayers for S’lichot and the Month of Elul (CCAR Press, 2017), p. 8
Have you ever developed a spiritual practice? If so, what elements of that practice do you want to carry with you through this Elul? If not, what do you hope to gain from this spiritual practice for the month of Elul?
Click on the sound file below to listen to Rabbi Gersh Lazarow sounding the shofar: