Monday, September 19, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 17 Elul 5776

Elul Tools 

Building a Strong Foundation 
for the Days of Awe

Shofar Blast 
(press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

I was wrong. I know
I caused you pain. I'm sorry.
Will you forgive me?


17 Elul—Mending Fences

On Yom Kippur, we stand before God. Along with our entire Jewish community we ask to be forgiven for our transgressions over the past year. However, according to Jewish tradition, our misdeeds cannot be forgiven unless we genuinely feel remorse and make authentic efforts to repair the damage. Fixing our mistakes in the world also repairs our souls, indeed the world as a whole. 

This is the process of Teshuvah. Returning to ourselves.  Returning to God. What we do now, during Elul and the Days of Awe, will demonstrate our sincerity for improving our lives, becoming better versions of ourselves. Isn’t this in essence the renewal and return we are seeking? Striving for the “Finest Me I can Be?”

The image of God during the Days of Awe is that of Judge. We refer to God as Avinu Malkenu, Our father, Our King. We confess our sins as a community with God listening intently. Depending on the sincerity of our prayers and the quality of our Teshuvah (process of repair and return), we will be inscribed for another year in the Book of Life.

Some are put off by these images. Keep in mind that these ideas and images of God can serve as powerful metaphors to inspire and propel us. Of course we all want to be inscribed in the Book of Life. But what does that actually mean to us? Perhaps it means we want to stay as close as possible to our authentic selves in the year to come. Maybe the idea of not straying as far off the path works for others. If the language and metaphor of “being forgiven by God and inscribed in the Book” is uncomfortable for you, think of it more as wiping your slate clean. In order to start this year with zero baggage, you have to assess shortcomings and mistakes and then fix them. This wipes the board, neutralizes the transgressions, balances the scales, gets the train back on track. Whatever metaphor of Teshuvah works for you, go with it. 

Today’s Elul Tool: Yesterday’s task was to write a list of people whom you have hurt. Look at your list and start mending fences.  Reach out to at least one person today and take responsibility for your mistakes. If you’re in the mood to keep the repair process going, do it. But for today make amends to at least one person. As difficult as it is, try to cover the following:  admit you were wrong, apologize for the offense, acknowledge that your behavior caused pain, vow to make whatever adjustments necessary to not inflict the same pain again. Do not explain or rationalize why you made the offense. Come from a place of complete responsibility, even if you feel this person owes you an apology as well!

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: Our children do not carry as much baggage as we do. They have not accumulated much in the way of defense mechanisms. As such, the process of making amends often comes quite easily for them, especially very young children. Using the metaphor of “mending fences” discuss the amends making process with your children. Impart the idea that it’s a good habit to fix things when they are broken. Children will be able to relate to the simplicity of repair and cleaning up as it relates to relationships as well. It’s just something that we do!

For younger children, the book Today is the Birthday of the World (by Linda Keller) is perfect for indirectly introducing the concept of Teshuvah. In the book, God’s primary concern for the past year is that we all (animals included) work toward becoming the “Finest Me I can Be.”

For older children The Hardest Word (by Jacqueline Jules) is a great book about making amends. The author stresses that while the process of apologizing and mending relationships is difficult, it is very important.

Below are some links to Rosh Hashanah YOUTUBE music videos. The videos are take-offs from pop music songs. They are upbeat and have inspiring images. They are great for creating excitement about the Jewish New Year coming! Remind your children that the new year is less than two weeks away (Sunday, October 2nd at sundown). Preview the videos first to make sure they are appropriate for your children. Sometimes we learn best through performance art!

Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem

Teach your children to say and to write “Shanah Tovah” in Hebrew. This is the traditional greeting for Rosh Hashanah, meaning "Happy New Year." The Hebrew is below and reads right to left.

The Junior Tool Box activities from yesterday (Elul Day 16) are meaty enough to extend through this week as well. Revisit if you feel your children are in the Elul activity frame of mind!

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