Elul: Awaken to a Jewish Year

Introduction (Elul – Day 1)
The month of Elul is a time of preparation.  To reflect.  To take stock.  To get ready …Traditionally, for these 29 days of Elul, which end on the 1st day of Tishrei – Rosh Hashanah – you prepare by listening to the blast of the shofar.  Every day.  (And yes, there’s an Elul shofar app for that!!)  Some Sephardic and Mizrachi (middle eastern) communities say selichot, penitentiary prayers through the night, every day of Elul to prepare.
We will not be holding all night prayer, nor will we blow the shofar every day at Temple Emanuel.  What we WILL do however, like other congregations across the country, is send you a very brief reflection, idea, teaching, or mp3 file of music, to prepare you over each of the 29 days of Elul.

Below is a collection of the mediations that have been sent out, beginning with the music files that Cantor Boxt recorded and followed by the most recent meditation.  We will update this list each week so that you may revisit the collection as often as you like.  We hope these brief daily “shofar blasts” will help you prepare for the upcoming Yamim Nora’im – Days of Awe!

Elul – Day 6
Hayom T’amtzeinu
Text, liturgy; English and music, Noah Aronson
Elul – Day 13
Pure Heart
Text, Psalms 51:12;
English and music, Yoel Sykes and Daphna Rosenberg of Nava Tehila
Elul – Day 20
Avinu Malkeinu
Text, liturgy; Music, Josh Nelson
 
Elul – Day 27
Asher Yatzar – Text, liturgy; English and music, Dan Nichols 
Elul – Day 29
“When we leave this world, neither silver nor gold nor precious stones and pearls accompany us – only Torah and good deeds.”
–Mishnah Avot 6:9What is the true inheritance we offer our children and grandchildren?
Far more than money or wealth we offer them our values, our sense of right and wrong and teach them by example of how we live our life!  Real inheritance is far beyond money.  What really matters is who we are as human beings!  The month of Elul is a time of reflection upon our own lives.
Are we supportive of loved ones in need?  Are we peacemakers when there is conflict?  Do we care about justice and act upon it?

Rabbi Warren Stone

 

Elul – Day 28

Elul, the Hebrew month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, is a period of reflection on our behavior and relationship with others with an eye toward improvement.  This is so very, very hard to do. The first step is looking in the mirror and assessing our behavior, good or bad, of the past year. Then giving a good long think as to where we want to change. Then approach someone, look them in the eye and say, “if I have offended or hurt you in any way, I apologize”.  Then try really, really hard not to engage in the hurtful behavior in the upcoming year. Try to forgive yourself for the past in order to improve upon the here and now, and the future.

Diane Raphael, Office Manager

 

Elul – Day 26
Blessings for Unconditional AcceptanceAs we reflect on our actions of the past year we realize how flawed, how “human,” we are. We must learn to love these moments, to love ourselves when we blunder, to love our imperfections and our humanity. We welcome these learning moments and commit to improving upon them in the coming year.

“Let us bless the Source of life in its infinite variety, that created all of us whole, none of us perfect.”
–Judith Glass, “Lifecycles Volume 2”

“I thank you for my life, body and soul
Help me realize I am beautiful and whole
I’m perfect the way I am and a little broken too
I will live each day as a gift I give to you”
–Dan Nichols, “Asher Yatzar”

“…there is no person who does not have his or her hour,
and there is no thing without its place in the sun.”
– Ben Azzi, Mishnah

Lillian Feldman-Hill, Youth Engagement Coordinator

 

Elul – Day 25

Now is a good time to pay attention to your breath. Close your eyes; take a deep breath in, hold it and then release your breath slowly. Begin with this quote from the Dalai Lama: “As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.” “As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.” Stay conscious of every breath, and see where your thoughts take you. What do you need to focus on as the High Holydays approach? What will your journey be this year?

Dianne Neiman, Executive Director

 

Elul – Day 24
A Morning Meditation
(adapted from The Guided Meditation Site)In this period of reflection, remember to still be a participant in the present with continued mindfulness. Begin practicing habits that will make you proud when you reflect on this time next year.
Repeat quietly in your mind, today is a great day.
As you breathe slowly and deeply imagine a vibrant yellow light flow into your body that revitalizes you with every breath you take. Feel a simple pleasure in being alive; you begin to look forward to this great day. Embrace this feeling. Give yourself permission to feel great, to feel great about yourself.
Smile to yourself and pay attention to how that simple little smile improves your overall morning mood. Try to keep that smile on your face, while you recite these to yourself out loud or in your mind:
I love my life
I am grateful for my life
I love who I am
I am confident
I am loved
I am happy
I feel great about myself
I am safe and I feel safe
Today everything is fun and easy
Today wonderful things happen to me
I am allowing myself to enjoy this day
Today is a great day
Now it is time to begin your great day. Begin by gently stretching your back and arms, wiggle your toes and listen to the sounds around you. Enjoy this great day.

Lillian Feldman-Hill,Youth Engagement Coordinator

 

Elul – Day 23

“The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace.”
– Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel

It seems as if Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel is stating the obvious.  But take a moment and think of the opposite—the world is brought down with three things: injustice, lies and war.  Injustice, lies and war have been part of our world this past year in our cities in our political process and in the global community.  How important it is to follow Gamliel’s teaching and work this year with our own minds, hearts and actions for justice, truth and peace!

Rabbi Warren Stone

 

Elul – Day 22

Celebrate the journey, as Rabbi Shefa Gold encourages in her book “Torah Journeys”.  Bring yourself back to a moment of miracle that was not fully acknowledged.  It is not too late.  Honor your finding with a song, a poem, a hike, a work of art, or whatever feels meaningful.

Diane Raynes-Miller, President, Temple Emanuel

 

Elul – Day 21
Bringing Others to PenitenceIn the neighborhood of Rabbi Meir there lived hooligans, who annoyed him so much that he prayed for them to die. His wife Beruriah said to him: Why do you suppose [your prayer will be effective]? Is it because of the verse “Let the sinners be consumed” (Ps. 104:35)? But in fact, not “sinners” is written, but “sins.” Moreover, look at the end of the verse: “And let the wicked be no more,” which implies that once sins cease, the wicked will be no more. Rather, beseech mercy for them, that they may turn in penitence, so they will be wicked no more.
He besought mercy for them, and they turned in penitence. [Talmud, Berachot 10a]

Sharon Wechter,Director of Congregational Learning

 

Elul – Day 19
Relax by Ellen BassThere’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine and climbs half way down.
But there’s also a tiger below,
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out and begin to gnaw at the vine.
At this point she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse in your throat.
Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
Slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
The red juice is, how the tiny seeds
Crunch between your teeth.

Amy Turim, Librarian

 

Elul – Day 18
Childhood Memories:  Little White gloves, black patent leather mary-janes, a very stiff petticoat and a brand new “party-dress” with a huge bow in the back.  I was fascinated with the ladies wearing fur coats when it was still so warm out, many wearing heels that to a small child, made them seem 10 feet tall.  It was the one time of the year that we were allowed in the beautiful “bride’s dressing room.”  During breaks all of the little girls gathered there to talk and giggle, while the boys chased around outside with their shirt tails hanging out.  I was so happy to sit next to my father and proud to hold the prayer book that I couldn’t even read yet.  Memories changed as the years went by – services in a big white tent while the synagogue was being renovated, walking home with my cousins, and finally being able to read the prayers that I learned in Hebrew School.  Every year as we approach the High Holidays, these vivid pictures of childhood return to me.  I have spent a life-time working with young children, hoping that I can begin to create meaningful Jewish memories that will stay with them throughout the years.  As I reflect on my past, I know that I must continue to think about our collective future.  I know that I can never start a new day, without reflecting on the one that has just past.  That is how I begin Elul.

Madeline Lowitz Gold, Director, Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Center

 

Elul – Day 17
          Gary Mayes, TEECC Pedagogista
Elul Gary

Elul – Day 16

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”     – Dalai Lama

Dianne Neiman, Executive Director

 

Elul – Day 15
Rather than providing a reading for you today, I’d like to offer you an opportunity to reflect on your year and how you can use these days of Elul to prepare yourself for the Holidays and the upcoming year.
Please Click Here to take a look at a PDF I’ve created for you and consider printing it out and filling it in when you have a moment of space to think and reflect.

Lillian Feldman-Hill,Youth Engagement Coordinator

 

Elul – Day 14
When one appears before the Throne of Judgment, the first question asked is not, “Have you believed in God?” or “Have you prayed and observed the ritual?”
One is asked: “Have you dealt honorably and faithfully in all your dealings with your fellowman?” – The Talmud

Amy Turim, Librarian

 

Elul – Day 12
My husband, so mild mannered in everything else, gets furious at traffic or if he gets stopped at a red light. I don’t understand this; what’s the rush, where’s the fire? So what if he gets to his destination 5 or 10 minutes later?
It’s not as if I like traffic (I do not enjoy my twice daily crawl on I-270), but it is not worth getting high blood pressure over missing the green light or crawl and sprawl. I like to use my time in traffic, or waiting for the light to change, to slow myself down, think about life, how I want to change for the better, how to better communicate what is important to me to those I love.
Elul, the month of reflection, is a good time to remember, “Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way”.

Diane Raphael, Office Manager

 

Elul – Day 11
Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000) was considered by many as Israel’s greatest modern poet. This well-known poem from 1980 movingly surfaces the idea of two cultures scapegoating the other yet finding common bonds in the end.

An Arab Shepherd is Searching for His Goat on Mount Zion:

An Arab shepherd is searching for his goat on Mount Zion
And on the opposite mountain I am searching for my little boy.
An Arab shepherd and a Jewish father
Both in their temporary failure.
Our voices meet above
The Sultan’s Pool in the valley between us.
Neither of us wants the child or the goat
To get caught in the wheels
Of the terrible Had Gadya machine.
Afterward we found them among the bushes
And our voices came back inside us,laughing and crying.
Searching for a goat or a childHas always been the beginning
Of a new religion in these mountains.
– Yehuda Amichai, trans. Chana Bloch

Al Tanenbaum, Immediate Past-President, Temple Emanuel

 

Elul – Day 10
Elul, the Hebrew month leading to the High Holidays, is a time of awakening, reflection and hopefulness. The Rabbis take the Hebrew spelling Aleph, Lamed, Vav and Lamed to envision the phrase from Song of Songs: “I am my beloved and My beloved is Mine.”
This phrase reminds us to reflect upon all of our relationships with family and friends and ask ourselves the question; how can we make all our closest relationships beautiful!

Rabbi Warren Stone

 

Elul – Day 9
Our new “Mishkan Hanefesh, Machzor for the Days of Awe” offers the following inspiration for us all. Science can help us understand how the world was created, but it can’t tell us why it was created. And religion has no business telling us how the world was created, but we need it to help us understand why we’re here.
The opening of Genesis tells about the creation by God of a universe of harmony, balance, and beauty, formed from soupy chaos, “tohu vavohu.” It reminds us why we are here. It sets forth our work, and our challenge. But according to Rabbi Rick Jacobs there is much work remaining to create the universe of peace and tranquility, including pursuing our responsibilities as God’s partners in establishing the world described in Genesis.

Diane Raynes-Miller, President, Temple Emanuel

 

Elul – Day 8
Letting God Off Easy
On the evening of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, “the poor person’s rabbi,” asked an illiterate tailor, “Since you could not read the prayers this evening, what did you say to God?”
The tailor answered, “Dear God, You want me to repent, but my sins are small. I confess: There have been times when I failed to return pieces of left-over cloth to my customers. When I could not afford kosher food, I ate food that was not kosher. But really—is that so terrible? Now, take Yourself, God! Just examine Your own sins: You have robbed mothers of their babes, and have left helpless babes orphans. So You see that Your sins are more grievous than mine. I’ll tell you what, God! Let’s make a deal! You forgive me and I’ll forgive You.”
“Ah, you foolish man!” cried Rabbi Levi Yitzhak. “You let God off too easily! Just think! You were in an excellent position to make God redeem the whole Jewish people!” [Hasidic Tale]

Sharon Wechter, Director of Congregational Learning

 

Elul – Day 7
Rabbi Israel Salanter once spent the night at a shoemaker’s home.  Late at night he saw the man working by the light of a flickering candle.  “Look how late it is,” the rabbi said.  “Your candle is about to go out. Why are you still working?”  The shoemaker replied, “As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to mend.”
For weeks afterward, Rabbi Salanter was hard repeating the shoemaker’s words to himself: “As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to mend.”
As long as the candle burns – as long as the spark of life still shines – we can mend and heal, seek forgiveness and reconciliation, begin again.

Dianne Neiman, Executive Director

 

Elul – Day 5
“The devices which science has given us are neither good nor evil in themselves. Their capacity for good or evil lies in the use we make of them. Thus, not in the laboratory, but in the human heart, in the realm of the spirit, lies the challenge of the future.”  – David Sarnoff, Jewish-American businessman and broadcasting pioneer

Amy Turim, Librarian

 

Elul – Day 4
How do you get in the frame of mind for the High Holidays with all the tumult and activity getting ready for school and out of the rhythm of summer? It seems that the Yamim Noraim always come too soon- certainly so close to (fill in the events in your own life here). The days begin to quicken, intensify after Labor Day, and then we need to put on the brakes and get in the reflective mood necessary to observe the holidays. How to slow down? How reflect on our relationship with God? How to really take stock of our behavior the past year?
The one thing I do, besides making my chicken soup, is to listen to Jewish music, especially Avinu Malkenu. I do not have a recording of Cantor Boxt’s beautiful rendition but here are some links to High Holiday music you might enjoy:
Barbra Streisand – Avinu
Lior – Avinu Malkeinu

Diane Raphael, Office Manager

 

Elul – Day 3
“Man plans, and God laughs”  – Yiddish Proverb
Each day we are faced with challenges and inconveniences: long lines when we’re in a hurry, angry clients, broken possessions, dead batteries, bad weather…  whether or not we respond to these with agitation or humor is a choice.
How often are you able to smile, laugh, shrug things off, take a breath, and approach bad situations with a light-hearted attitude?  Perhaps God sometimes laughs at our plans, and so we must laugh right along.

Lillian Feldman-Hill, Youth Engagement Coordinator

 

Elul – Day 2, A Reflection on Friendship
Rabbi Eliezer would say, “The honor of your friend should be as precious to you as your own, and do not be easy to anger. Repent one day before your death.”  Pirke Avot Mishna 2:10
Take a moment and think of your friends who are part of your life. Take a moment and imagine they are standing in front of you! Reflect upon your relationship with them and how much it impacts your life! Take a moment in your mind to offer a blessing of gratitude! How can we honor that relationship? How can we let go of any anger, if by chance we felt let down in the past? Repent means change “one day before your death,”  – every day – since we know ours and all life is precious!

Rabbi Warren Stone