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Welcome to the month of Elul!

09/01/2022 12:53:27 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

This past Shabbat we welcomed in the new Hebrew month of Elul with psalms of praise and special Torah and haftarah readings. In the special verses that made up the maftir (end of our Torah reading for the week) we were instructed regarding the sacrifices to be made:

“On your new moons you shall present a burnt offering to Adonai: two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven yearling lambs, without blemish.” (Numbers 28:11)

So, one might ask, “how is this Hebrew month different than all of the others?” The month of Elul officially begins the countdown to our High Holy Day season. When Elul ends it will be the 1st of TishriRosh Hashanah.

During the month of Elul we are supposed to engage in personal reflection and evaluation so we are prepared for the New Year. As we move past the celebration of Rosh Hashanah (Sunday, September 24 – Monday, September 25), we begin the hard work of teshuvah in the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur (Tuesday, October 4 – Wednesday, October 5). Warming up to this through the month of Elul gives us the strength we need as we work on returning to better versions of ourselves through asking for forgiveness from those we have harmed during the previous year and considering how we might repair our relationship with God.

Of course, since the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, we have replaced burnt offerings “to make a pleasing odor for God” with prayer. Words that flow from our lips and hearts in community or isolation with gratitude, or sadness, or anger, or reflection. During the month of Elul we will read special readings during our Erev Shabbat services to help us on our path.

I invite us to begin together with this beautiful reading from our prayer book for this special month: Mishkan Halev: Prayers for S’lichot and the Month of Elul.

Elul: An Island in the Year

Before we slip too quickly into the Season of the Soul –

              Let there be a Sabbath of Sabbaths for the heart.

Before the music of Creation’s majesty –

              Let there be a silent praise of existence.

Before the feast of sanctified words –

              Let there be a poetry of solitude.

Before we enter the palaces of prayer –

              Let us find within ourselves a place of calm.

Before we revel in the wondrous and sublime –

              Let there be an honest, inward gaze.

Before the rites and ceremonies of Awe –

              let there be quieter days,

              an island of attentiveness.

I hope you will join us in these weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah. To give yourself the time you deserve and need to reflect on the year. One that is rapidly melting away behind us, so you can be present for the year to come. Additionally, I look forward to sharing a sweet treat with you during our Selichot program on Saturday, September 17th beginning at 8:30 p.m. and ending with our Selichot service beginning at 10:30 p.m.

Tue, December 6 2022 12 Kislev 5783