Elul Reflections: 20 Elul 5780

"Ani l’dodi v’dodi li - I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine (Shir ha’Shirim 6:3)

Elul is often been considered an acronym for a line from the Song of Songs “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” meaning “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine”. What does this month of preparation for the High Holy Days have to do with love? And how can we access that deepest and purest emotion in times like these, when our hearts are broken as we trudge forward in this twisted reality and consider an uncertain future?

Despite our one hour a day of permissible exercise and contact with the outside world here in Melbourne, the Jewish calendar has not been forced to change to accommodate for the pandemic. There is something quite grounding about that. Someone said to me this week that “the world changed while I was taking a bike ride.” The announcement about the Stage 4 restrictions gave us mere hours to prepare, let alone get our heads around. In reality, for some of us, very little has changed from Stage 3 to Stage 4 restrictions. For others of us, so much has changed. For others still, the thought of the increased restrictions is more restrictive that the restrictions themselves. Others around our region are still enjoying their freedoms, but know the winds could change any moment. Some of us have lost loved ones, known others or ourselves have suffered from COVID. Love might be the last thing on our mind. Fear of the unknown, worry about the future, loss of so much – these tend to be common emotions lurking in our minds, not love. 

And yet, as we are forced to accommodate and normalise our current reality, the fact is that “time keeps on ticking:” The Jewish and secular calendar remain consistent. The sun rises and sets each day. Melbourne weather is just as unpredictable and inconsistent as ever. Shabbat still comes each week whether we acknowledge it or not – all of these things are grounding. In a world where everything seems to be going topsy-turvy with no end point in sight, grounding is a valuable commodity.

It is lovely that there is a dedicated time to open our hearts to the possibility of love as we prepare and contemplate a new beginning on Rosh Hashanah. 

I share this now to remind us that, although our hearts may be hurting now, this month of the Jewish calendar reminds us of the importance of opening up our hearts and remembering to both search for and give love. Our tradition teaches us that love is a reciprocal act of giving and receiving. There are no set contexts for love. Love transcends time, space, and pandemics. So, guided by the time-bound grounding of our Jewish tradition, let’s consider for our High Holy Day preparation taking time out to consciously give and allow ourselves to receive love – from a friend, a relative, or from ourselves. Love is in the air – breathe it in (without your mask)! 

Rabbi Allison Conyer, Etz Chayim Congregation, Melbourne

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