This week we began the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the new Hebrew year. The rabbis understood this month to be a preparatory month. It is a time to get us ready for the deep spiritual work that we must undertake beginning on Rosh Hashanah and ending ten days later on Yom Kippur.
What can we do to organize our thoughts, our hearts, and our actions, in anticipation of the High Holidays? Here are some suggestions:
1. Click on our calendar, on our computer or phone; open up our planner, slide over to the calendar on our fridge; look back over the past year and see the things we have done, the trips we have taken, the celebrations we have participated in, the people we have seen. Remind ourselves of what we have accomplished this past year.
2. Begin to seek out family and friends with whom we may have had an argument or spat. Take the time to reacquaint and reconcile. Most times all it takes is that initial call or email to begin the process of making amends.
3. Take a few moments each day to take a personal audit of our actions and words. Reflect on how our actions and words have affected others.
4. Some of the most frequent transgressions we commit involve our use of words. We gossip, we slander, we belittle, we besmirch. Pick one week over the next thirty days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and focus on our use of words. Keep track of how often we use words to hurt or offend. Find ways to lessen the impact of our negative speech.
5. Perform a spiritual inventory. Where are we at with our relationship with God, with the Jewish people, with the natural world around us?
We have less than a month until Rosh Hashanah, let’s use the time to help prepare ourselves for a meaningful High Holy Day season.