Saturday, September 17, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 15 Elul 5776

Elul Tools

Building Strong 
Foundation for the 
Days of Awe

Shofar Blast
(press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

Complicated me.
Sometimes up, other times down.
I balance it all.


15 Elul - Did You Hit Your Target?

The shofar, sounded during Elul, alerts us that Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner. It’s time to wake up and get ready. But how do we get ready? One of the traditional ways is through some pretty serious self-examination. If you have been following the Elul Tools in order, we have been involved in the ancient tradition of Chesbon Hanefesh, Jewish soul searching. Now that we are halfway through Elul already (notice the full moon outside!) we will begin to shift our focus from self-reflection to action

For the past two weeks, we have focused on our shortcomings in many areas over the past year. All of us, regardless of age, maturity, knowledge of Judaism, level of spiritual practice have “messed up.” That’s what humans do. The confessional prayers during Yom Kippur make this fact blatant by chanting them in the plural, “WE have sinned.” No one is exempt from making mistakes, causing pain to others. And yet, if our Cheshbon Hanefesh (Jewish accounting of the soul) includes only our failings, without the successes, we don’t have the whole picture. So while up until now we have largely reflected on how our arrows completely missed the target, the focus for today is remembering our “Bulls Eyes” over the past year.

We have considered our shortcomings in many areas of our lives over the past two weeks, from our most intimate relationships, to our larger communities.  We have zeroed in on the mistreatment of ourselves from our bodies to our souls. 

After contemplating our shortcomings, our mistakes, the damage we may have created in each of these areas, today we focus on success. Recognizing our strengths and accomplishments helps us point our attention where it should be for the new year. We use this image of the the bulls eye to acknowledge where we have been right on target.

Today’s Elul Tool: See yourself as a whole, integrated person. You are capable of making mistakes and causing pain. However, you also perform acts of kindness and repair. Yes you created problems this past year. But consider all they ways you repaired damage and fostered peace. Recall the idea of weighing your actions in Judaism. Balance is important. Tipping toward the side of goodness is ideal. Would you say that your total successes and failures balanced out this year? Is the amount of disturbance you created equal to the amount of peace you created? Contemplate your inner scale in regard to all the various realms of your life. Is there one particular area that needs attention? How can you tip the scale toward more connection, repair, and growth in the year ahead? Did you hit any bulls eyes this year? If so, take a moment to acknowledge that accomplishment.

Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
Here is an online version of Psalm 27 for easy access. 

For Families and Kids!

Junior Tool Box: Discuss the symbol of the target with your children. Include the ideas of “Missing the Mark” and “Hitting Bulls Eyes” to talk about strengths and weaknesses over the past year.

Discuss how to prepare for next year like an Archer, putting intense focus on what to improve, how to hit the Bull’s Eye!

For a tangible visual of this idea, draw a large target (or use the one below). Fill in the target with this year’s “hits” and “misses.”

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