The UPJ Moetzah, the Progressive Rabbinic Council, has prepared a series of reflections for each of the 29 days in the month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holy Days, as a period of self-examination and spiritual deepening. Read more to learn how to subscribe to the daily emails.
The daily reflections will address: How can we focus, for a full month, on spiritual deepening? In what ways should we examine ourselves? How can we adequately prepare for the holiest days of our year? It is our hope that these reflections will encourage meaningful preparation for the High Holy Days.
We wish you a meaningful, reflective Elul, and hope that your spirit and soul are nourished heading into the High Holy Days.
Click on the links below to read each day's reflection:
There is a custom to recite Psalm 27 every day during the month of Elul, in preparation for the Days of Awe. As is so common with the recitation of psalms, the act of reciting is at least as important as the meaning of the words. This kind of recitation provides us with a spiritual discipline or technique to frame our reflections over the month of Elul. Instead of simply hoping that we’ll find the time each day to think about how we’ve lived out the year past and what direction we’d like to move in over the year to come, the psalm gives us a clear framework within which to do our thinking, our spiritual audit or cheshbon nefesh.
How does that work? In the beginning of Elul our concentration is on the words of the psalm, getting them right, pronouncing them correctly (if we say them in Hebrew) or attending to their meaning (if we recite the psalm in English). But as the days pass and our familiarity increases, we will find the recitation falling into a rhythm, like the rhythm of a poem or song.
The rhythmic sounds provide a backdrop for other thoughts that arise in our awareness. These are the thoughts that tell us what’s important to us at that moment in our lives. If we explore them a bit more, we’ll discover what in the year past led us to them and what we’d like to do with them over the year to come.
All this flows from the rhythm of our recitation. It is this stream of reflections that turns the psalm from an object of experience into a spiritual discipline. It forms a space within which self-awareness can arise. The psalm becomes a prayerful space, a space in sound rather than a physical space.
That’s the aim of reciting Psalm 27 through Elul. Why not give it a try and see whether it provides you with a space for yourself?
L’shana tova tikateyvu
--Rabbi Fred Morgan
I recently met up with a Muslim friend. Over coffee, she spoke about how much loves the intensive rituals and restrictions of the month of Ramadan. I've always imagined that it must be terrible to have to wake up each day for a month before the first light of dawn to eat, knowing that I wouldn't get to eat or drink again until sunset. My friend talked about how wonderful that hour of the day is--a completely quiet time to reconnect with her own sense of spirituality and rebuild her relationship with God.
As she talked, I found myself wondering what would it be like to set aside time daily for an entire month to renew my spiritual self. Where could I find an opportunity within my own Jewish year to engage in this practice?
And then, of course, I figured it out: Elul! Elul is an entire month of preparation for our holiest days. The rabbis have already designated this time as a month to reflect on our deeds over the past year and think about the spiritual work we need to do before Rosh Hashanah. They separated out the four letters of the month's name א-ל-ו-ל into the verse from the Song of Songs: אני לדודי ודודי לי "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."
And so I resolve to take time each day of this month to reflect on who I am, where I've come from, and where I'm going. I invite you to do the same. It is my hope that these Elul Reflections will assist you in walking this path to the Days of Awe with mindfulness and joy. May we all be inscribed for a sweet new year!
--Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Elul Reflections editor