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Elul: The Days of Questioning

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

I remember seeing an Army wall calendar that had a sign next to it, “Dates on the calendar are closer than they may appear.”  Isn’t that the truth? It feels like someone pushed “fast forward” on my life, the time goes by SO quickly.

And so- we find ourselves preparing once again for the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, the High Holydays.  Are we preparing?  How are we preparing?  You wouldn’t hold a wedding without thinking about invitations and music, clothing and food, the ceremony and the rabbi!  You wouldn’t go on vacation without thinking about what to pack?

In fact, anything that we do that is important requires preparation.  The new year is no different.  NOW is the time to reflect on how we will make this holy moment meaningful in our lives.

We begin by looking backward at the year that is winding down.  With deep honesty, we think about regrets we have and how we can restore hurt relationships and right the wrongs we have committed.  We ask- Where are we in connection with ourselves?  With others?  With God?  Where do we want to be?  What do we feel good about and. what would we like to change, knowing that the gates of teshuvah, the gates of repentance, are always open.

Looking ahead to the year that is about to unfold, what emotions are evoked?  Are we nervous?  Excited?  Worried?  What opportunities are opening up in 5783?

We call this time The Days of Awe, yet I think that perhaps we might imagine them as The Days of Questioning.  The only way to move forward to where we want to be is to honestly face where we are now.  This is the gift that the month of Elul offers, so that we are prepared for the challenging work of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur when they arrive in a few short weeks.

Reb Nachman of Bratslav taught that, “Growing spiritually can be like a roller coaster ride.  Take comfort in the knowledge that the way down is only preparation for the way up.”

We are on the way up!

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