Report and Reflection Time
I am delighted to share that our 2018 Annual Report is now available. We encourage you to read about the impact we are making in our Jewish community with your generosity. We should be very proud of the vitality of our Jewish community. With your ongoing support, may the Jewish Federation and our Jewish community continue to go from strength to strength.
This Sunday, join the Mittleman Jewish Community Center and PJ Library for a summer concert with local musicians, featuring Eric Stern, Michelle Alany and the Mystics, and 3 Leg Torso. The concert is from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and the cost is $10 (kids ages 3 and under are free). PJ Library and its partners will provide craft activities for young families throughout.
Last Friday was the start of the month of Elul, the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, and the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time for deep reflection as we approach the High Holidays. As the Maharal of Prague said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his/her soul and search his/her deeds, that he/she may make confession.”
Jewish tradition points to the name of the month as symbolically appropriate — the letters of Elul form an acronym for the words in the verse Ani le dodi ve dodi li –“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). This is often interpreted as love poetry between two people. The phrase also reflects the love between God and the Jewish people, especially at this season, as we assess our actions and behaviors during the past year and hope for blessings in the coming year. We do this not out of fear, but out of love.
Here are five customs (from ReformJudaism.org) performed during the month of Elul:
1. Blowing the shofar
Traditionally, the shofar is blown each morning (except on Shabbat) from the first day of Elul until the day before Rosh HaShanah. Its sound is intended to awaken the soul and kick start the spiritual accounting that happens throughout the month. In some congregations the shofar is sounded at the opening of each Kabbalat Shabbat service during Elul.
2. Saying special prayers
Selichot (special penitential prayers) are recited during the month of Elul. A special Selichot service is conducted late in the evening – often by candlelight – on the Saturday night a week before Rosh HaShanah.
3. Visiting loved ones' graves
Elul is also a time of year during which Jews traditionally visit the graves of loved ones. This custom not only reminds us of the individuals on whose shoulders we now stand and helps us honor their memories, but also prompts us to think about our own lives and the legacies we will leave to others – kind words spoken, comfort offered, love given and received – which take on added meaning as we enter the High Holiday season.
4. Reading Psalm 27
It is customary to read Psalm 27 each day from the beginning of Elul through Hoshana Rabbah, which is the last day of Sukkot.
It also is a month during which we are encouraged to study and take time for personal reflection around our actions of the past year and to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged or with whom we otherwise have “missed the mark” in our interactions and behaviors.
As you begin to prepare for the High Holidays and think about the past year, I wish you a Shabbat shalom.