The Hebrew month of Elul starts this Sunday evening. It is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year seen traditionally as the date when the world was created, and when the Jewish calendar advances. In ancient times it was also used for calculating certain tithes, and for calculating the start of the Shmita and Jubilee years (when land was left fallow and debt was released). The next Shmita year starts this Rosh Hashanah!
The letters of Elul form an acronym from the words in the verse Ani‑l’dodi ve‑dodi li–“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3). This is commonly understood to refer to our relationship with the Divine, yet we also have the opportunity to focus on this relationship of love with all of Maasei Bereshit (works of Creation).
I try hard to respect and revel in the magnificence in all of Creation, in the germination of the seeds, the growth of plants towards sunlight, and how necessary the rain is for living beings and our ecosystem. Yet my footsteps in the garden have decreased during the rain storms, and I often glance at it from afar. My concern is of fungal diseases and slugs, and the inconvenience of mud on my kitchen floor.
Elul also begins a month long process of preparations for Rosh Hashanah, where daily ritual practice might include blowing/ listening to the shofar every morning, reciting Psalm 27, or reciting Selichot. (Poems/ prayers for foregiveness). It is also the start of the journey of teshuvah (return/repentance). How appropriate that teshuvah should include reflection on our relationship with the Divine, with Creation and as a reflection of our relationship with each other.
I love the sound of the shofar. It was in September 2014, at the People’s Climate March in NYC that I first felt its power to awaken and mobilize.
Since I don’t (yet) blow a shofar, I make an effort to attend the morning minyan (prayer service) at my local synagogue to hear it blown. The morning schedule adjustment is a reminder of this holy month, and the walk over an opportunity to contemplate my journey of teshuva. The sound of the shofar resonates with my soul. For just a few moments, it is all present and all encompassing and awesome.
May we all be blessed in the coming month with a soul awakening to the inner process of teshuvah, and a reflective relationship with the Divine and all of Creation.