1 Elul 5778
12 August 2018
Rosh Hashanah begins exactly four weeks from this evening. It is an awesome, somewhat intimidating thought. Four weeks before we gather with friends and family to mark the start of another new year. Four weeks before we stand in synagogue and face ourselves once again. Once again, the Union for Progressive Judaism will be providing daily reflections to help focus our minds on the task of preparing for the High Holy Days. This year, reflections by our spiritual leaders will alternate with reflections from our soon-to-be-published machzor Mishkan T'shuvah.
How you use these reflections is entirely up to you. If you already have a spiritual practice, you are invited to incorporate these reflections into that practice as a way to direct your heart throughout this month of Elul. If you have not been in the habit of pausing each day to give yourself that time, this might be a great opportunity to begin. Your time of reflection might come at the start of the day as you look ahead, or at the end of the day, as you're winding down. Either way, we hope that these days ahead are a time for introspection and deepening as we move through this holy time.
--Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky, Elul Reflections Editor
“Israel, prepare to meet your God!”
The moment is here—but I am unprepared.
How does one get ready to meet what may not exist?
“The pious ones of old would wait an hour before praying,
to focus their thoughts on the Holy One.”
Technicians of the sacred,
the Sages had their own proven methods.
“Rava would take off his fine outer cloak,
clasp his hands over his heart,
and pray like a servant before his master.”
Said one sage: “Look toward the earth during prayer,
but direct your heart to heaven.”
I can position my eyes and my hands;
where is my heart tonight?
“One should pray the Standing Prayer
only with a sense of reverence and awe.”
“Remove trivial matters from your thoughts;
approach God with a clean and open mind.”
And the Chasidim teach: “Think not of your own needs and requests.
Focus on the pain of God, who suffers in this troubled world.”
If you can’t find the faith,
then doubt is your gift.
And if you can’t find the words,
offer your silence instead.
For so it is written:
“Silence is praise to You.” (RH page 31)
- Rabbi Janet Marder and Rabbi Sheldon Marder
Supplementary reading from our new machzor Miskhan T'shuvah, which will be introduced in 2019