On the night of August 26, the Hebrew month of Av ends, and the month of Elul begins. Elul in Jewish thought is a sacred time during which we begin in earnest the process of self-examination and reflection in preparation for Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) a month hence.
We need this month to prepare for the grueling period of introspection that the Days of Awe (the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) should be. A sports team does not simply put on their uniforms and show up to play their first game. They prepare and practice for weeks beforehand. So it should be with us and the Days of Awe. We do not just show up and expect to be “ready to play” on Rosh Hashanah. We carefully prepare during the month of Elul by reviewing our thoughts and actions over the past year and asking ourselves, “How can we do better in the year ahead?”
It is a worthy task that elevates our humanity. If we take it seriously, the Days of Awe themselves will be much more meaningful, and we will enter the new Year better equipped to use the talents with which God has blessed us to make on this earth a more just, caring and compassionate society!
The moon of Av wanes rapidly,
And soon Elul arrives—
A holy month, our Sages taught,
A chance to examine our lives.
We prepare ourselves for the Days of Awe
The Holy Days just ahead.
We look at our thoughts, our words, our deeds,
“What might we have done instead?”
To better live true to the Covenant
The Almighty asks we uphold
To work to create a better world
As our lives unfold.
Will our world be a kinder realm
Because God planted us here?
Will we strive to make the earth a place
Where no one needs to fear?
As the moon of Av wanes rapidly
And sacred Elul arrives
May these be the questions we ask ourselves
As we examine our lives!