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Welcoming the Month of Elul

Everyone says it, but time really has moved differently for me since the pandemic started. This summer has been especially strange - I was supposed to be in California, working as the Jewish Educator at a summer camp. Instead, I've been in Jerusalem, with a patchwork of babysitting and odd jobs, studying Hebrew, working on some creative projects. Without a regular schedule it kind of feels like I'm working or thinking about work all the time, and the week is constantly slipping away from me. Especially on Fridays, as I'm getting ready for Shabbat, I look back at my week and think - there's so much that didn't get done!

The month of Elul starts this week, and it brings with it a heightened sense of the approach of the High Holidays. Elul is kind of like a Friday afternoon, but times ten. And rather than reflecting on our to-do list, it's about something much bigger. I think Elul pushes us to ask ourselves - Do I feel connected to something larger than myself? Does my day-to-day reflect my values? Am I the person I want to be?

And wow, as I read back those questions, I feel anxiety growing right above my stomach. Where do I even start, especially this year? I've been so focused on getting through the day, getting through the week, counting my blessings that my friends and family are healthy.

So, while I can't offer any easy answers to these questions (wish that I could!), I'm glad to be able to offer a space for us to consider them together. On September 6th, I hope you'll join me for Illuminating the Jewish New Year: a special Elul/Pre-High Holiday virtual retreat. I've prepared some intriguing texts and creative prompts that I hope will help us approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a sense of perspective and purpose.

Hoping this month brings you time to pause and take stock.

Chodesh tov - Happy New Moon and month of Elul!

Valerie Brown

Community Educator, The Tasman Center