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4 Elul 5783

Rabbi Gary J Robuck

Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, VIC

Cultivating the Heart and Spirit

Once on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the rabbi and tzaddik Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, was standing in his house looking out the window at the street, when a shoe repairman passed along and asked him, “Don’t you have something to fix?”  Immediately the tzaddik sat down on the floor and began to cry and wail, saying, “Woe is me, and alas for my soul! For the day of judgment is fast approaching and I still haven’t fixed myself!”  (Jewish Spiritual Practice).

This year, as I have in the past, I will be relying upon a masterwork written by Yitzchak Buxbaum, Jewish Spiritual Practice (Jason Aronson, 1999).  I commend this indispensable guide to the principles of Hasidic spirituality, including techniques and meditations to enrich our ritual and prayer life, bring kedushah into once-ordinary acts, and to create – everywhere and always in our public and private lives – a heightened sense of yirah, a greater awareness of, and love for God.

In classrooms we learn about Judaism.  In board and committee rooms, we administer Judaism. Mitzvah heroes reach out to the community and into congregations to provide support for those who need it most. In synagogue, we keep up with the Hebrew, sing along with the songs, developing prayer literacy.  All these are commendable and necessary. But more, they are the gateway to our Jewish potential, to the depth of Jewish spirituality which Elul invites us to explore.

For that reason, during Elul, let us focus our attention on the cultivation of our neshamah (spirit) and consider the kavvanah (intention) behind our mitzvah deeds and Torah learning. In effect, let’s go beyond the head and hands mechanics of Judaism and to deepen our appreciation for the heart of Judaism.

See more Elul Reflections