Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Blessing for the New Month

This blessing is said and generally sung on the Shabbat of the week that the new month will occur. We should all find what we want and need this coming month of Elul.

May He who performed miracles for our fathers and redeemed them from slavery to freedom, speedily redeem us and gather our dispersed people from the four corners of the earth, uniting all Israel; and let us say, Amen.

May the Holy One, blessed be He, renew it [the month] for us all His people, the House of Israel, for life and for peace, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation; and let us say, Amen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elul is Coming, Elul is Coming...

This week brings us to Rosh Chodesh Elul (Thursday and Friday), the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. The next question should be:

Excellent question.

The month of Elul is followed by the month of Tishrei. The first day of Tishrei is Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and the tenth day of Elul is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. We'll discuss both those holidays... but not right now.

So the big deal about Elul is that it precedes Tishrei and the major holidays within it. So again, why should we care?

Let's go with an analogy.
You have a big court case next month. You will be appearing before a judge and there's a chance you will win your case and a few million dollar judgement. You want to be prepared. It's not like your homework from elementary school - your teacher will excuse your forgetfulness. Preparedness is the key.

Being prepared is what Elul is all about. In order to be prepared we need to evaluate ourselves.

Let's start with these three questions:
* Who are we? As a family member? A friend? A community member?
* What did I accomplish this past year? Materially and Spiritually?
* What do I want to accomplish this coming year? Materially and Spiritually?

There's a lot to think about. Just those three questions should make us all stop and think for more than a moment. These are not simple questions that should be thought as we're getting dressed for synagogue on Rosh HaShanah.

Elul is an interesting time. Elul in Hebrew is spelled Alef-Lamed-Vav-Lamed. These letters can also spell out the words Ani Ledodi V'dodi Li. I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me (Song of Songs 6:3). The Song of Songs is a love poem written by King Solomon describing the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People.

Elul is this time where we are trying to bring ourselves closer to G-d. How do we bring ourselves closer to G-d? We can do this by improving ourselves and by letting G-d into our everyday lives.

The entire purpose of living is to become the best Jewish person we can be. G-d created each and every one of us. And as I heard once, "G-d doesn't make junk!" which means that we have a responsibility to work on ourselves and become who G-d believes we can be.

Elul is the time for all of this preparation. Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, is when we come to G-d and say - this is what I've got - this is my plan for the coming year.

The first day of Elul is this Friday (beginning Thursday night). Let's take this opportunity to get closer to G-d - by evaluating who we are now and who we want to become.