Rosh Hodesh Elul, the new month of Elul, is the last new moon of the year 5783. The next new moon will be Rosh HaShanah. This month of Elul is an opportunity to reflect and do cheshbon hanefesh/soul accounting. Checking your personal receipts and inventory. What damage or good did you do in the past year? What is a goal for the year ahead? What shifts can you make to live closer to your highest ideals?
Time is sacred. And we all run out of it. This season is an opening for the deep soul work we do as flawed and always learning humanoids!
How can you be a better person: partner, parent, child, co-worker, friend, sibling...in 5784?
Judaism assumes you want to do better each year. Aim higher. Perfect being a good person in this world. We Jews are never satisfied because we know we can make this world a better place. And it starts with each of us. Assessing ourselves. Our lives. Our relationships. Our connection to the planet.
So how do we do this soul accounting?
Choose from one of the classic Jewish lists of virtues below.
Choose 4 virtues/areas of human experience that you believe are areas in which you can do some personal work.
Each week of this month Elul write one of the virtues at the top of a piece of paper.
Each day for a week look at the word and write some notes about how this virtue relates to the year that has passed.
How did gratitude show up in your life last year?
To whom are you particularly thankful?
Have you thanked them?
In the year ahead how do you want to incorporate this virtue into your life?
Weekly Shabbat services?
Weekly thank you card writing?
Make a plan for 5784.
You do not need to take on every issue in your life. Pick four. Do the very personal and private work of your own soul accounting. Check yourself. Check your own receipts.
Everyone has work to do. Choosing not to follow a path of personal development and transformation is a choice. Ignoring the call of the shofar at this season and looking away from yourself, the impact you made on this reality...that is a choice. We each have free will. But you can also choose a personal path that will do so much good for this world. You can choose transformation. You can choose untapped possibilities. You can choose life, abundance, health, vitality, joy, peace, and love. These are all choices.
And we can make our best choices when we are informed. Soul Accounting, checking our personal receipts/accounts, is a process of learning about self.
Classical (meaning pre-modern) Jewish lists of virtues or areas of personal development.
Choose four to focus on over the next four weeks. Reach out by email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment at https://calendly.com/rabbikinberg/30min if you want guidance on how to address these four virtues, whichever you choose, in your life. This is something kids and teens can do too. Elders too!
Cheshbon HaNefesh (Accounting of the Soul) by Rabbi Mendel of Satanov
Avoiding preoccupation with sexual activity
The Ways of the Tzaddikim (The Ways of the Righteous) Anonymous; Feldheim Publishers
“Lashon Harah” (Gossip/Slander)
“Yiras Shamayim” (Fear of Heaven)
The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto; Feldheim Publishers:
Separation/Rising above physicality
Fear of Sin
Ahavath Chesed (Loving Kindness) by Chofetz Chaim; Feldheim Publishers
Lending Money (Interest Free)
Paying Hired Workers/Wages on Time Chesed
Lending out ones objects
Hospitality to Guests
Visiting the Sick
Kindness to the deceased
Gladdening a Bride and Groom
Saving another from distress
And last but not least:a prayer/poem for this new month, the last month of 5783.
Return: A Prayer for Elul by Trisha Arlin
Return to Elul. The sky was dark, and the month began. A special time of starting over; A month of kindness and clarity; Of consciousness and knowledge; Of bravery and strength. It is said that the truly evil are already condemned And the truly good are already blessed. So for the rest of us There is Elul. Return to ourselves. In Genesis the moon is called, “the lesser light.” And that’s how I feel tonight, Less than what I should be. What was I thinking? I was afraid, I was hurt, I was anxious… No excuses, I know what I did, Maybe it wasn’t so bad But maybe it was. How can I make it better? There is Elul. Return to the people we wronged. Use the ritual, Create a context. It makes it easier to speak: I am so sorry. I was wrong. I lacked compassion in the moment But I see things clearly now. You don’t have to accept my apology, We can do teshuvah together If you want. There is Elul. Return to each other. In community we pray For the kindness to comfort and care; And the clarity to see what must be done; For the consciousness to accept the truth; And the knowledge to get writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. help if needed; For the bravery to ask for forgiveness; And the strength to forgive. Most of all, we pray for all who are in pain or who cause pain. All this and more because There is Elul. Bless the God of Justice, of Mercy and of Redemption that we may return every year, As old as the darkness, as new as the moon. Amen