By Cathy Cohen Beneath a sky of stars in this time of great answering I will sing my own brief poem. If the bowl of the sky is a lens on the infinite eye all images pass through I will seek mercy among trees, branches, beings all deserving care. Because aren’t we all swirling dust, flashing shards from a broken vessel of hope too vast be contained? I will seek the glint in you, some magnificent bit of shimmer as we meet and warm ourselves in presence. I will ask what care can I bring to my own brief glinting?
Elul is the month dedicate to exploring and learning about: ourselves! We take a full month out our calendar year to go inward, to do the honest and sometimes painful work of heshbon hanefesh, soul accounting. This is the labor of self-assessment.
Rosh Hodesh Elul begins: August 19 at sundown. Go look at the moon and begin again this sacred cycle of personal accounting and reflection.
How have I grown this past year?
Where did I miss the mark?
What work do I need to do during this holy season of teshuva, transformation and turning ourselves towards a better trajectory, so that my year ahead will be the most in alignment with my values and higher self?
What hopes and dreams do I have for the year ahead and what inner work do I need to do in order to set myself on a clear, straight path in that direction?
What can I do THIS month to prepare for the New Year NEXT month? How will I prepare?
And G!d says: “Can you feel the turning? The sun is lower and the trees are beginning to burn; it is time, again. The time is coming. You will not be ready. Even if you have planned each menu for your vegan, gluten-free, macrobiotic Rosh Hashanah lunches. Even if you are expected to lead your community in prayer. Even if you remembered to buy local, organic honey, there is no readiness for the work to come. Only a willingness to show up and dive in.” From the Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, by Dane Kuttler
This year I am encouraging our members to join me in accessing a wonderful free month-long program from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality call the Shofar Project-an Elul Intensive. (See more info below) Together we will engage in daily and weekly spiritual practices designed to prepare us for the days of awe. If you have never engaged in a Elul practice this might be the year to invest in your own personal and spiritual development. This is the self-love aspect of Elul. Taking a full month to invest in self-development. Private and personal. Nurturing and watering your own garden!
We have been through so much since the last secular new year, 1/1/2020. Oy vey! Things have been so hard. Profoundly sad but also eye opening. Our society has been broken up. Or perhaps we are seeing anew the true brokenness that has always been there. Regardless-we are dwelling in a deeply fractured reality. And it is taking its toll. We are in a wounded place. An open wound. Ready for healing and regeneration.
And so too our personal lives have been broken open. Habits changed. Schedules disrupted. Family relationships both strengthened and weakened by the fall out of pandemic and social and political conflict. Broken open. Broken apart. But so ripe. Full of potential for something new. A new direction. A new vision for the future. New possibility. I know I am ready for it. To work with the raw material that has emerged from the brokenness in our world. To work with the raw material of my transformed life.
If this is your first time engaging in Teshuva/Transformative Self-reflection and would like personal, one on one guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me for a personalized zoom session to support you in these efforts (Rabbikinberg@gmail.com). I will be able to listen, provide resources and to further connect you to the deep and important spiritual work of this season. My role in all this is to be a cheerleader, guide, teacher and partner in your personal transformation. Yes! This is all available to you through your participation and engagement with Kol Ami: A Center for Jewish Life.
Because the world is a different place each moment I am alive, there is unlimited potential for change. Kerry M. Oliltzky and Rachel Sabbath, Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days
Prayer, meditation, chant, journaling, yoga and study are our primary tools for transformation this season. And while religion might not be for everyone, yes we are a Jewish organization which embraces both those who are religious and those who are secular in their orientation, I do believe that spirituality, developing a deeper and more authentic connection to higher self, is for everyone. All of us have work to do. Each of us can do better. Every single one of us had a role to play in the future of the planet. The future of our communities. The future of our families. Our own future! During Elul we look backwards in order to refine our future direction. Perhaps this year we will come a little closer to creating a life for ourselves and a world for others that is increasingly just, loving, compassionate, patient and sustainable.
We think of self-examination during the month of Elul as a path to repentance. But it is more fundamental than a step toward something else: We examine ourselves to know who we are. Our darkness and our sins are part of us, stiched into our soul. Without coming to grips with what you have done wrong, you can never understand your own soul. Our character is reflected in our actions and our relationships. But neither is the whole story. Some revelations call for introspection. Who am I? Have I become the person I was meant to be or am I betraying or trivializing my destiny? Rabbi David Wolpe
Next steps? Sign up for The Shofar Project. Open yourself to the possibility of this season through engaging in Jewish practice. And if this is too much consider: attending services, a class, Torah study or consider taking a few minutes each day for self-reflection. It is your journey. Judaism is here to add meaning and depth to this journey. But the path is your own and it is your own work to carve it and refine it. My hand is extended. I am reaching. I hope you will extend too. Towards a fulfilling and transformative Elul.
An Elul Intensive
A Free Four-Week Online Program from IJS and its Partner Organizations
The upcoming High Holidays will be unlike any most of us have known. We have woken up to our deep interconnection to all people and our own fragility. We have seen more clearly the deep injustice of systems and power structures in our country. We have heard voices pleading for life. Perhaps we are awake in a way we have not been before. How can we maintain and even deepen this awareness as we enter a new year?
The Shofar Project is a free program open to people of all backgrounds who want to make this a year of continued awakening, responsiveness, renewal, and transformation. It takes place during the Hebrew month of Elul, the month preceding the Jewish High Holy Days, a traditional period for intensive spiritual reflection, introspection, and moral accounting (August 20-September 18, 2020).
How it works:
Each week of The Shofar Project will focus on a different aspect of awakening and renewal. Once you sign-up, you will receive emails with the links to video teachings and a variety of live online events that explore the week’s theme, as described below:
Each Sunday for the four weeks of Elul, a short video teaching to ground each week’s mindfulness practice theme.
A live 30-minute daily (Monday-Friday) Jewish mindfulness meditation sit that includes a teaching and guided meditation led by IJS staff and outstanding guest instructors from various Jewish denominations – stay tuned for our amazing lineup!
A live 30-minute “Torah Study to Sustain The Soul” focused on a classic Jewish text with Rabbi Jonathan Slater each Tuesday.
Live 45-minute Jewish yoga sessions each Monday and Thursday.
Participate in as many program elements as you’d like as often as you can.