The Work of Elul

The Hebrew month of Elul continues. This is the month of introspection and repairing relationships. We have so few weeks – why didn’t I start sooner, I berate myself. The work is so difficult, when really done with intention and determination to change ourselves and our interactions with others, in preparation for presenting ourselves to the Holy One during the upcoming Holy Days.

I am reminded of this Chasidic writing by Shmelke of Nikolsburg, Moravia (1726-1778), one of the great early Chasidic Rebbes. Reb Shmelke taught:

The Talmud tells us that if all the world were to repent, the Messiah would come. Knowing this, I decided to do something about it. Where to begin? The world? It was too large and I was too small. So I thought: Let me start with my own country. That, too, proved too much for me. My own town? I failed there as well. My neighborhood, my own family? Even there I did not succeed. Never mind, I thought, I shall work on myself.

May you be inspired to spend a few moments every day “working on yourself.” You might find it inspiring to go outside, find a beautiful spot, and have a conversation with yourself. What did I do during the past year that makes me proud? How can I do it again, or something like it? What did I do that I wish I had not? Lost my temper, hurt someone’s feelings, lied (well, it was only a white lie, not important, right?), gossiped. What can be repaired and what’s stopping me. Make your own list and add to it every day (or as often as you can). You don’t have to go outside – have this conversation before bedtime, while driving, even while exercising if that’s the only time you have “alone time”.

May you do the work of Elul, bringing blessings to yourself, and may you have a Shabbat of peace.

Rabbi Debbie Israel