Sometimes, our students tease me as we approach holidays throughout the year, because I claim each one as “my favorite!” Honestly, I cannot pick a favorite – I sincerely love the beauty, rituals, and meaning of every holiday, and the opportunities they provide us to ground ourselves in space and time, with family, friends and food.
But the truth is, summer is my favorite time of year. I love the long, bright days, the summer constellations, afternoons at the beach, walking everywhere in open-toed shoes and unburdened by layers of clothing, and summer thunderstorms. I even like the super hot and humid days (well, a few of them).
As the sun begins to sink a little earlier each evening and my summer flowers begin to fade, I am reminded it’s again time to take stock, to reflect, to consider all I’ve done or failed to do in this concluding year, and focus on how I can mend and grow in the year about to begin.
Judaism offers us two periods of intense reflection each year – the period between Passover and Shavuot as we ready ourselves to receive the torah, and the month (Elul) preceding Rosh Hashana, when we ready ourselves to face a new year. During each of these periods, we literally number our days, and pray we can make each day count.
I encourage everyone to take a few minutes each day during this final month of the Jewish year to contemplate your journey, relationships, and actions. For some guidance, consider signing up for either or both of these excellent resources:
- Jewels of Elul: A short inspirational essay every day, written by luminaries in the fields of education, arts, religion, politics and more. This year’s theme is “What if?”
- The Mussar Institute: Sign up for their email list to receive a reading each day throughout Elul. This year’s theme is “What does teshuva (turning back) mean to me?”
I look forward to seeing each of you at the High Holy Days, but even more so, hope to connect with each of you individually. If you’d like to arrange a time to meet (at my office, or out for coffee or lunch or a walk), please do reach out.
Wishing everyone a sweet and happy New Year, meaningful Days of Awe, and blessings in the year ahead.
Rabbi Robin Sparr