Guest author: Rabbi Susie Henson Moskowitz
Gift of Elul
We know we have to prepare to take a test. We study and review the material and learn whatever facts we need to know. If we are having a party, we plan for it by sending out invitations and creating a menu and even cooking the food (unless we are calling a caterer!).
But when it comes to preparing for a spiritual moment we are often at a loss. We are reticent to prepare, as we want our spirituality to be spontaneous and not planned. Planning to be spiritual feels too calculated. We think to ourselves, “If I force the connection, it won’t be authentic.”
The Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a month away. I know this fact because I only have a month left to get my sermons written! But I also know that Rosh Hashanah is a month away because last Saturday night, August 18, was the first of the Hebrew month of Elul. Judaism gives us an entire month to get ready for the High Holidays. The shofar is blown every morning in the synagogue, and we are instructed to take time and right the wrong of the past year, now, before the New Year begins.
These are some of the benefits of taking the month to spiritually prepare for the big day!
- Thirty days of doing something is enough time to create a habit. Step by step, we can turn over a new leaf and be closer to where we want to be on the big day.
- Practicing every day will make it a bit easier to get into the right frame of mind when we really want to be there. (A few months ago, I started a new yoga practice that focuses on a particular way of breathing. I used to have to repeat the breathing pattern all twelve times before I could get it right, now I find that I can get into the proper groove from the first breath onward.)
- We will not be caught off guard or taken by surprise when the holiday arrives, we will be ready.
- Doing a little bit of preparation each day forces us to slow down and create time and space to examine our life.
- If we are feeling “off” on the holiday, we will still have benefitted from a month of practicing.
So set a goal for the next thirty days. Write for ten minutes a day, meditate, read from a prayer book, or take time in nature. Pick one activity to repeat every day, or just commit to doing something each day so on Rosh Hashanah you’ll be ready for the New Year. Give yourself the gift of Elul.