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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Elul 4 - by Rabbi Goldstein

In Aramaic, the word elul means searching.  Here in the month of Elul we begin to search our souls and make an accounting of all the ways we have fallen short this past year.  We do not do this because Judaism wants us to feel badly about ourselves – but just the opposite.  Judaism gives us this time to reflect in order to better ourselves – to make the effort to become more loving, more generous, more just.  Often we do not take full advantage of the gift that Judaism offers us in this month of Elul because we are comfortable enough with our lives as they are.  Or perhaps the process of looking at our lives and souls in such an honest and “stripped of all pretenses” way moves us from a place of relative comfort to a place of great discomfort … and who among us wants to be uncomfortable if we don’t have to.

But here we are in Elul … and it is time for each of us to start feeling a little uncomfortable. Uncomfortable at how quickly we judge others without fully knowing them, or judge a situation without knowing all the facts.  Uncomfortable with how easily our attention gets diverted from those who need us most.  Uncomfortable with the way we deflect responsibility for the ills of the world by blaming them on politicians, or the rich, or the poor … or anyone but ourselves. Uncomfortable with the compromises we have made. Uncomfortable with the silences we keep in the face of increasing violence, injustice and despair.

In order to begin this move from comfort to discomfort, Judaism invites us to use these days of Elul to rededicate ourselves to a spiritual practice.  For some of us this might mean daily prayer or meditation.  For others, this might mean journaling or spending time outdoors in nature's beauty.  A traditional practice involves reading Psalm 27, a prayer beseeching God not to abandon us, no matter how far from God's presence we may feel.

There are a number of translations and interpretations of Psalm 27, but Rabbi Brant Rosen's interpretation speaks to the longings of my heart, and helps me to open my heart more fully each day.

Rabbi Andrea Goldstein

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