28 Av 5775
From Rabbi Josh
In just a few days, we enter a profound Jewish gateway. That gateway is known as the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins with the new moon this Friday night, August 14. Even though it’s still summer and in general our energy is outer-directed, the soul of this month beckons us to begin the process of looking inside, to begin the process of self-examination that culminates with the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
To be honest, this summer has been pretty busy for us. We’ve had some good travels (a week reconnecting with my family in Western Michigan, an immersion in nature connection and learning with Jon Young at the Art of Mentoring) AND it’s been challenging to move the work of ZMANIM forward, juggling camps for our son, Shlomo, and trying to piece together additional child care around that. So, on the one hand, I recoil at the idea of this new month as a time to ramp up the introspection with another demand on my time.
And then I remember that it’s an invitation. I don’t have to go crazy with it. And I remembered some of the High Holy Day writing prompts of Daria’s and my teacher, poet Merle Feld. So, I don’t have the space to block out a chunk of time for introspection every day during the month of Elul. But I am willing to commit to sit down and write a little bit and let things flow in response to these prompts--hopefully on one of the these quiet nights after the kids are asleep. I’d like to share with you Merle’s writing prompts that I’ll be working with, with the hope that they might meaningfully catalyze your own introspection and journaling as well.
Chodesh tov (a good month!),
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High Holiday Stretches and Warm-Ups from Merle Feld
1- Recall a situation from this past year in which you felt proud of yourself, a situation in which some special aspect of yourself was expressed – don’t look for an Olympic gold moment, some splashy achievement – rather, something small, quiet, subtle will do even better for this… Tell the story, describe the situation, letting the details return to you in all their fullness….
Follow-up for 1- Now that you’re done writing it down, reflect on why/how the best part of you came out in that situation. How can you be that fully realized, special “you” more often in the coming year?
2-How have you cared for yourself this year? Make a list of all the ways - things you do every day, things you do sometimes, rarely. Read your list over, notice what you’d like to increase.
3-To whom do you feel grateful this year? How might you let them know?
4- Think of your family and closest friends: are you conscious of ways in which you may have harmed any of them, caused them pain in the past year, fallen short of the mark? How? Choose one person and focus on him/her: what is the regret or guilt you feel toward this person? What do you want the relationship to be like? What can you do to make amends, to bring about change? (repeat as needed)
5- Has anyone sinned against you this year, hurt you? How? What do you need from them to achieve healing? Is there something you can do to help bring about that healing, justice, reconciliation?
Perhaps that won’t be possible; if it’s not possible, how might you help yourself to find inner peace and move on?
6- We struggle not to become overwhelmed by the need for help and healing in our broken world. Decide on one or two specific places/issues/needs where you will commit to spend some time and energy on tikkun in this new year. Reflect in concrete terms on what that will look like for you.