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Journey of transformation for the new year

09/04/2019 10:54:58 AM


Cantor Leah Shafritz

In my Taste of Life article a few weeks ago, I offered, in Rabbi Alan Lew's words, the opportunity for us to consider Tisha b'Av as the start of the process of transformation we undergo during this season. The imagery of the destruction of the Temple, which we traditionally commemorate on Tisha b'Av, provides us with a metaphor for the walls we wish to break down in our own lives. This past weekend, we welcomed the month of Elul, the month that leads us into the new year and the Days of Awe. Elul is the time for rebuilding, an opportunity to take the time for reflection before we find ourselves in the seats of the sanctuary on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in just a few short weeks.

The first few weeks of Elul build up to Selichot, which marks a transition point from preparation and reflection to action as we begin the recitation of our penitential liturgy as well as making amends with those we've wronged. We witness a transformation on Selichot as we change our Torah mantles from the ones we see year round to white, symbolizing purity and a clean slate. This is the transformation we personally strive for during this season - that we are not simply the people we were throughout the past year, but that we emerge a different, better version of ourselves, having learned from our imperfections and mistakes, and with a desire to start fresh in the new year.

It takes a lot of work to get to this point. This year, with the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars lining up the way they are, we are afforded the opportunity of Elul coming not at the end of the summer, as it often does, but aligning at a point when we are back in the swing of things, starting up our normal routines once again. After, hopefully, a refreshing summer, we can get our heads back in the game and dig into the work.

To guide us in this process, over the next several Shabbats, the Rabbis and I will be offering different modes of reflection and introspection in our Friday night services, giving us opportunities to grapple with whatever it is we are struggling with this High Holy Days season.

We will incorporate practices customary during Elul, such as the sounding of the shofar and study of Psalm 27 (see below). Services on Sept. 6th and 13th will lead us to Selichot, which we will observe Friday evening, Sept. 20. We hope that you will come on this journey with us; whether you're able to join us the whole month of Elul/September or perhaps for just one service. It is our hope that the work we put in now will provide us a deeper and more meaningful experience and transformation during these High Holy Days and usher in a sweet new year for us all.

Psalm 27 (Listen to the prayer)

Achat sha’alti me’eit Adonai / otah avakeish /shivti b’veit Adonai kol y’mei chayai / lachazot b’noam Adonai ulvakeir b’heichalo.

One thing I ask of Adonai, for this do I yearn: to dwell in the house of Adonai all the days of my life, to see the goodness of Adonai and to visit God’s sanctuary​.

Fri, July 30 2021 21 Av 5781