Before we dip our apples in honey and party like it’s 5777, we need to take stock of ourselves and our lives. Elul is the name of the month that precedes the Jewish New Year. Think of the High Holidays as the Super Bowl and Elul as the final month of practice. We can feel the excitement of the big game as we feel the power of G-d. But we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do so we have to train for the big game. But, instead of push-ups and sprint training, we look within and wonder how we can grow to our fullest potential. We ponder the mistakes we made throughout the year and create a positive game plan for the year ahead.
During Elul, many listen to the shofar every day to “wake us up” and get “pumped.” Many of us recite Psalm 27, i.e., “One thing do I seek: That I may dwell in the house of God all the days of my life”. We study Jewish values and read spiritual texts like Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis. We ask for forgiveness - from ourselves, from others and from G-d - for the mistakes we’ve made, knowingly and unknowingly, e.g., overeating, saying something hurtful. This is called “tchuvah”, which means to “return” to our highest self.
The letters E-L-U-L parallel the famous verse from the Song of Songs: Ani l'dodi v'dodi li, i.e., “I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine”, which highlights the loving relationship between God and the Jewish people.
With the beauty and promise of Elul, we are able to get back into the game again - to get off the sidelines prepared to be the very best you can be in every area of your life. A tall task indeed…but if we can open a dialogue in our hearts then maybe we can open up the hearts of others as well. And that’s what we need now more than ever - personally and globally. With the cauldron of rage and hatred boiling over throughout the world, the sound of the shofar is a wake up call crying out for us to rise above the intolerance. Elul invites us to make ourselves better and, in turn, help make our world a kinder and gentler place.