So here’s a frightening thought: This weekend brings the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul. The end of summer is on the horizon and with it the end of vacations, a return to schools, legislatures going back into session, and for Boston – dare I say it – a start to preparing for the coming winter.
Elul also brings an opportunity for reflection. This month is our lead up to the High Holidays, a time to take stock of ourselves and to make the transition from the historical Jewish experience of destruction in the month of Av and toward our season of forgiveness come Tishrei.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson in “60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays” teaches that ELUL is an acronym for the verse Et levavcha ve’et levav, “Your heart and the heart (of your children)” (Deuteronomy 30:6). He writes that this connection hints that Elul is a time of regret, forgiveness and reconciliation; a time of return to pristine beginnings to rediscover our true selves and the divine spark at the core of our souls.
At JCRC, this is the time of year when – leading up to our new fall program and fiscal year – we take stock. This is when I engage in a personal reflection process with our board about my hopes and ambitions for continued personal growth and development as a leader and what I look to achieve in the coming years. On an organizational level, the entire team at JCRC is evaluating our performance over the past year, asking ourselves where we fell short of – or exceeded – our goals, and where we want to go in the coming year. Arching over all of this is a broader communal conversation that so many of us are having – in public and in private – about where we are as a Jewish community, and what is and isn’t working in how we connect with one another in service to our shared sense of purpose as a People. In keeping with this season of reflection, we are faced with the most challenging question of all; where have we inadvertently caused pain to others and perhaps even damaged the fabric of our beloved community?
So allow me to invite you to join me and JCRC in this Elul practice, both in a personal and collective way.
On a personal level I encourage you to join me by pursuing your own practice of self-reflection over the coming month.
On an organizational level I ask you to share with us your feedback about what you think JCRC is doing well, and just as important, what we can do better in service to our community.
In consideration of our collective service to the community, I hope you will ponder this exercise, which Rabbi Jacobson offers as a starting point for the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul:
- Identify and describe one damaging pattern that you want to break in the coming year.
- List one thing you must do in order to break that pattern.
Together we can seize this moment to foster forgiveness and reconciliation, thus beginning a journey back to pristine beginnings and toward a shared future.