The summer season is on the wane, and it is time to get back to business. As school begins in August, the casual days of summer fade away. We are aware of a definite change in the rhythms of our daily schedule. Summer vacations, camp life, baseball games, irregular meals and late hours give way to a more organized daily rhythm. I always have thought that the end summer was a fitting time in which to bid the old year good-bye, and to gird up for the approaching New Year.
Elul is the name of the Jewish month that precedes Rosh HaShanah. The month of Elul (which this year begins on Saturday evening, Aug. 18) is traditionally a time of introspection and reflection, and is, according to tradition, the time for us to prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Here are some Jewish traditions that can help us accomplish this.
1. Let us use Elul as a time to reflect upon our actions of the year that is ending. How can we improve ourselves in the approaching New Year? How should we behave differently, and when should we remain steadfast and preserve good behaviors?
2. The month of Elul is a time of reconciliation between family and friends. This is a time to make peace where there is strife and uneasiness.
3. The Book of Psalms may be read and pondered during this time. Look through it; there is some beautiful (and familiar) poetry in it.
4. Elul also is a good time to make sure the parchment in the mezuzah is still in good shape.
Towards the end of Elul (actually the Saturday night preceding Rosh HaShanah) we gather in the synagogue for the S’lichot service. The solemn, thoughtful atmosphere of this service transcends the words of the liturgy. There is a pronounced feeling of community when we gather to prepare ourselves for the coming Days of Awe.
What thoughts will occupy your mind and your heart as you approach this Season?
Cantor Barbara G. Margulis