I always swore I would never write a blog. Who wanted the responsibility of providing content every week? Because once you start, you can’t go back. Well, here I am – what is this weekly eNews message, if not a blog? (This is why Kol Nidre warns us about taking oaths… making promises you can’t keep is NOT a good idea!) 18 months ago, I felt compelled to share messages of support and show how our text and tradition could provide comfort in such uncertain times. A lot has changed in 18 months, but that impetus for writing a message in the eNews still compels me. Although I often get stressed about what I should write, I find that the actual writing forces me to reflect.
Reflection is one of the main themes and goals of the High Holy Days. I was talking with a friend just recently, and I mentioned how it didn’t even feel like the month of Elul. We have spent so much time on edge about how we were going to deliver services, that I forgot to be in the moment of preparation – especially my personal spiritual preparation. I may have lost track of the day, the week, the time… but time still moves forward, with or without my consent.
In rabbinic legend, Elul is the month in which the world was created. The Torah, and thus the story of creation, begins with the Hebrew letter “beit”. The midrash Genesis Rabbah asks why, and the answer brings insight for this time.
Why was the world created with the letter beit (for bereishit, “in the beginning”)? Just as the beit is closed on all its sides but open at its front, so you have no permission to ask what is above and below, what is before or what is after, except from the day of Creation forward… Another answer: Why with a beit? Because beit begins bracha, the word for blessing. (Genesis Rabbah 1:10)
This is the month of Elul, and it is time to both be present in this moment and prepare to move forward. Although our spiritual preparation for the High Holy Days includes looking back at the year and our deeds, it is done for the purpose of achieving a better future. Just as the Hebrew letter beit is open in the front of the letter, we can be open to the future, to possibility, to change. Being both present in the now and able to look forward allows us to experience the beit of bracha, the beit of blessing.
We are experiencing Elul, and we are blessed to be on our way to a New Year.