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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Traditions of Elul

Elul 2

Yesterday, Rabbi Bennett spoke of the essence of these days of Elul and our High Holy Days.   Teshuva, which is sometimes translated as repentance, but which is more accurately understood to be the process of turning, or returning, is the soul work in which we are to be engaged.  If we take this notion of teshuva seriously, we know that we need more than just 2 days … or 10 days … or even 40 days to do the work that needs to be done to turn away from paths that have been hurtful, and turn back toward a path that can lead us to more meaningful lives. 

Judaism, however, sets aside these 40 days (the 30 days of the Hebrew month of Elul, plus the 10 days of Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur) for us, as a community, to begin to focus our efforts on this task.

How do we begin?   We might choose to explore one or more of the daily traditional rituals associated with the month of Elul: 

-        * hearing the shofar blast each morning to wake us up to the preciousness and fragility of our lives (there are a number of apps one can use if you don't have a shofar in your home)

-       *  reciting Psalm 27 each day to remind us that we have no reason to fear this journey of self-discovery and renewal (see below for a copy of the text)

-        * spending some amount of time every day in silent reflection to engage in the process of cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of our souls.

Are there other rituals or processes that are helpful to you as you prepare for the High Holy Days?  We’d love for you to share them with the community here.

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Psalm 27:  A Psalm of David

God is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Eternal is the stronghold of my life; of whom should I be afraid?
When evildoers approach me to devour me, my own foes and enemies, it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart would have no fear; though war arise against me, still would I be confident.

One thing I ask of the Holy One; this is what I seek: to dwell in the house of the Eternal all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the One, to frequent God's temple.
God will shelter me in God's pavilion on an evil day, conceal me in the concealment of God's tent, raise me high upon a rock.
Now is my head raised above my enemies round about me; I worship in God's tent with shouts of joy; I sing and chant hymns to the Eternal.

Hear, O God, my voice; I call: have mercy on me, and answer me.
On Your behalf my heart says: “Seek my face!” Your face, O God, I seek.
Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You are my help. Do not abandon me, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the Eternal will take me in.
Show me, O God, Your way, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful adversaries.
Do not subject me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses have arisen against me, breathing out violence.
Were I not to believe that I would see the goodness of the One in the land of the living….
Hope in the Eternal; be strong and of good courage! O hope in God!

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