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The Most Important Month

09/01/2022 08:59:19 AM


Rabbi Ezray

We are in the midst of the most important month of the Hebrew calendar, Elul, the month before the High Holy Days. You might argue that Tishrei, a month full of the holidays, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah is the most important month. But Elul holds the key to everything.

The holidays are the moments of celebration and meaning, but the essence of the holiday is the time spent spiritually preparing so that the themes of the holidays become real. Elul, this month before the High Holidays calls on us to spend time each day with chesbon nefesh, examining our souls. We devote effort to reflecting on who we want to become, where we need to fix relationships, and how we might grow. We engage in teshuva, turning/returning. We turn to our best selves, to one another and to God. Structuring chesbon nefesh into our annual calendar results in a mindfulness that allows us to grow.

Many articles have been written suggesting how we might do this work. One I recently read by Stuart Weiss teaches that the keys to teshuvah are remembering and forgetting.

First, we make time to remember where we have missed the mark.  Each day in Elul (except Shabbat) we sound the shofar, waking us up from our slumber reminding us that it is time for teshuva.

Each of us has hurt someone. Elul asks us to remember who they are.  Who have we hurt? What did we do to address it? How might we further the work of reconciliation.

Each of us has people we have drifted away from. Elul pulls us back to relationship. Have we clarified our relationships? Have we reached out?

Each of us has qualities we would like to improve. Elul reminds us of who we really are. Where can we grow and change?

Elul is the time to dig deep into our hearts and our memories, sifting through the past and remembering so that we can repair, emerge as better people, and face the New Year with a clean slate.

And while Elul highlights that remembering is essential to teshuvah, it is equally important to forget. Stuart Weiss writes: “We spend way too much time and energy harping upon the grievances of our past, holding on to silly arguments we had with a friend…the capacity to forget and move on is one of our greatest assets.” As I read that line, I thought of all the time I have spent holding onto that which I should let go of, anger, harsh inner and outer judgment, hurt, frustration. The paradox of Elul is that it reminds us to forget/let go.

Elul is the most important month of the year because it heightens our mindfulness. It reminds us of hard inner work we need to do and to reflect on tasks not yet completed. It also reminds us to think about what we need to forget and let go of.

May it be a wonderful Elul and a Good and Sweet New Year.


Thu, September 28 2023 13 Tishrei 5784