Building a Strong Foundation
for the Days of Awe
(press the arrow below)
(press the arrow below)
Today's Elul Chai-Ku:
Today's Elul Chai-Ku:
Shofar call us home.
Spiraling back to the source.
We're back. Teshuvah.
Today is the last day of Elul. Tonight at sundown, with the new moon of the Hebrew month of Tishrei, we start the New Year 5777. The Shofar has awakened us from routines and habits we have fallen into over the past year. The ancient call of the ram’s horn is a tap on the shoulder, an urging to take some time to pull ourselves together for the approaching year.
We spent the past month reflecting on the kind of person we were in 5776. We gave serious thought to how we want to change and “upgrade” ourselves to the latest and best version of ourselves. We have journeyed inward, asking ourselves difficult questions. We have worked toward making amends, repairing small corners of the world. This beautiful annual cycle of return is what’s known in Judaism as Teshuvah.
During the Hebrew month of Elul, we have paused the ever increasing outward spiral of our lives and slowly made our way back to the center, the essence of who we are. The Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe) are designed as an annual reminder to come back to the heart of what it means for us to be human, to be alive. Of course we stray from the center, pretty much as soon as the High Holidays are over. We can’t, and shouldn’t, remain in a perpetual state of prayer and unity. We are people after all, and our purpose is to experience the world, relationships, work, recreation, hardship, challenge. However, we need a mechanism for return, Teshuvah, lest we lose ourselves completely in the details and multiplicity of life. The round spiral design of the Challah we eat during the High Holidays symbolizes this yearly quest to realign with our truest, most authentic selves.
As we discovered at the beginning of Elul, even the Shofar sings the song of return to us. We start with one unified note, which over time becomes broken and fractured into separate and distinct notes. As the Yamim Nora'im approach, we begin the voyage back to the source, back to oneness. Our final experience on Yom Kippur is to hear the final shofar blast, Tekiyah Gedolah. This one very long note is the exuberant cry of unity. At last we have made the full return to the Eternal One, to ourselves, to all that is. We try to carry this note as long as we can before beginning again--the inevitable outward spiral outward, toward family and friends, work and community, joys and sorrows.
Our Sages remind us that the process of Teshuvah is available to us all year long. However, the gift of the High Holidays is the opportunity to do this work together as a community. During the course of the year, when we get off track, we can always count on Elul, The Days of Awe, and the mysterious melodies of the Shofar to bring us back, at least once a year. Of course it’s always a good thing to repair relationships, clean up messes, give back to our communities and take care of the world all year long. We don’t have to wait for Elul. As the weeks and months roll on in 5777, we will begin to feel ourselves scattered, fragmented, turning down the wrong roads. When our lives begin to have that staccato feel of the Teruah call of the Shofar (9 quick blasts), we can always revisit the process of repair Elul has to offer us. We don’t have to wait for the calendar date to arrive. Small repairs and early course corrections during the year make the process of Chesbon Hanefesh (accounting of the soul) less daunting and arduous when Elul rolls again.
Today’s Elul Tool: Listen to the audiofile of the Shofar one last time for Elul (provided at the top of the post). The link for this is at the top of the page. Pay attention to the distinct notes. Can you hear the process of return? Just like we spiral inward as we approach Yom Kippur and outward as we journey through our year, the notes of the shofar mirror this process. Even the shape of the Shofar hints at turning, coming back. This is your ancient alarm clock. This is how the Jewish people have been calling to each other, calling to ourselves, calling for attention. It’s the shout out of Teshuvah.
It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
I've provided this online version of Psalm 27 for easy access.
May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!
For Families and Kids!
Junior Tool Box:
• Teach your children the words for apples and honey in Hebrew.
apple = tapuach ( “ch” pronounced with guttural throat sound )
apples = tapuchim ( “ch” pronounced with guttural throat sound)
honey = d’vash (blend the d and v sounds)
• Listen to the Tapuchim Ud’Vash song by clicking on the link below. This traditional children’s song was sent out earlier in English (Apples Dipped in Honey). This version is sung in Hebrew first, then English, with the final verse being being sung in both Hebrew and English at the same time! The words in Hebrew are below:
L’Rosh Hashanah (2x)
Shanah M’tuka (2x)
• Depending on how you plan to observe the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, begin to prepare your children. For example, if you are attending synagogue, preview what will happen. Practice the New Year’s greetings. If your children will be missing school, let your school know it is for Jewish holidays. Let your children know that school is important and valuable, but that honoring Jewish tradition and heritage is also very important. If staying home, plan your own rituals.
• Read any Jewish books you have related to the holidays.
• Draw pictures with High Holiday symbols.
• Download High Holiday coloring sheets and games. There are many resources for this online. Type High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, or Yom Kippur coloring sheets and see what suits your family best!
• Do the Time Capsule Activity below. Print out, fill out, and store away for the year! A fun way to store them is in a decorated paper towel tube! Don’t forget where you put it!
Rosh Hashanah Time Capsule
Don’t Open Until Rosh Hashanah 5778!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Today I am __________ years old. I am __________ inches tall.
I weigh __________ pounds.
Here are some of the things I learned to do this past year:
These are the things I love learning about:
These are ways I enjoy playing:
My favorite books are:
My favorite color is:
My favorite foods are:
My friends are:
Something I want to work on to be a better person is:
Some goals I have for the new year are:
My Predictions for 5777
I will grow __________ inches.
I will know how to...
My favorite color will be the same.
I will try some different foods.
I will meet new friends.
I will travel to
New ways I will help out in my family are
Any other predictions for the New Year?