Thursday, August 30, 2012

Elul is almost halfway through ...

I've been reading an amazing blog by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer. She talks about all sorts of things, but right now she's engaged in a project called #BlogElul, as you can see in this picture I lifted from said blog

So, what's Elul when it's at home? Elul is the sixth month of the Hebrew calendar, and when it ends, we have the first day of the seventh month, known as Tishrei. This day is mandated in the Torah to be a day of solemn assembly, of blowing of trumpets, of G-d's judging of our sins of the previous year and determination of our fate in the coming year. Yes, that's Rosh HaShanah, literally the Head of the Year. We call it the Jewish New Year, but actually it is not the beginning of the first month - that one is Nisan, the spring month in which we commemorate our redemption from Egypt. Are you confused yet?

Anyway, the tradition is to spend the month of Elul, before Rosh HaShanah, in the practice known as "cheshbon hanefesh", literally an accounting of the soul. In the synagogue, every weekday after the morning service, we sound the shofar to remind us that we need to be spiritually prepared to meet the King of Kings. It is quite common for people to follow some kind of book or path in this preparation.

Rabbi Sommer has provided us with a visual blueprint to guide brief daily blogs about the Elul process, and I meant to participate in it, but got caught up in other things, as so often happens. People have been posting their Elul blogs in the comments of her blog, and I want to join in. It is, after all, never too late to begin the accounting of the soul.

Today is the 12th day of Elul, and her theme is Image. I can think of no better image than this nice blue sign, and I will do my very best to keep up. Most of the posts should be much briefer than this, so don't be daunted by the prospect of daily posts from me!

How is your accounting going?


  1. This is kind of my problem with Rosh Hashanah. Yes to the solemn assembly and the blowing of the shofar. But no to "G-d's judging of our sins of the previous year and determination of our fate in the coming year." That function of Rosh Hashanah is NOT in the Torah. It comes from the Babylonian worship of their god Marduk ... and rabbinic tradition. The daily prayer service includes an opportunity to make teshuvah. It should not be a once-a-year observance.

    Okay, off my soapbox. I just have a problem attending Rosh Hashanah services because of the perception that we have this ONE opportunity each year to change the course of our lives -- and that G-d only pays attention to the state of our lives during the Yamim Noraim.

    1. Thanks for the response, Joan! I hadn't heard of a connection with Marduk before, although it doesn't really surprise me. But tell me, what is then the purpose of the solemn assembly and the blowing of the shofar?

      I don't think the tradition claims that this is the ONLY opportunity to make teshuvah, given, as you say, it is in the daily prayer service. But it is certainly a biggie that catches people's attentions, even those who don't go any other time of the year and have no idea what is in the daily prayer service 8-(.

      I see it as our version of making New Year's resolutions ;-).


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