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Elul Thoughts:

Thursday, 19 August, 2010 - 12:00 pm

We are one week into the final month of the Jewish calendar year - Elul. What follows are some thoughts about this special month.

Shofar: It is a tradition that each day until Rosh Hashanah (excluding Erev Rosh Hashanah) we blow the Shofar. The sound of the Shofar is a calling to attention as characterized with this passage from the famed Rambam. "Arise, sleepers, from your sleep! And you slumberers, awaken from your slumber! Search your deeds and return in repentance and remember your Creator! Those who forget the truth in the vanities of the time and waste all their years in vanity and emptiness that will not avail or save, look to your souls and improve your ways and actions! Let each of you leave his negative path and his thought that is not virtuous."

Ani Lidodi Vidodi Li: I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me. In Hebrew the first letters of this verse spell out the name of the month of Elul. For many this is a month of repentance and asking G-d for forgiveness. In Chabad philosophy, repentance and forgiveness are ideally expressions of a strengthening of the relationship. Hurting another is a symptom of a relationship that one no longer appreciates on a deep level. To repair that, one needs to focus on repairing the core of the relationship and then the negative symptoms will disappear. This is the meaning of this verse - I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me. Through focusing on the relationship we achieve the goals of the month of Elul.

Exile - Ina Liyado Visamti Loch: "If G-d let (the sin) come to his hand, then I will appoint a place for you to flee there" (Exodus 21:13). In Hebrew again the first letters spell out the name of the month Elul. The Torah has an interesting law regarding a mistaken murder. In certain circumstances, when one kills another without intent the Torah provides a "City of Refuge". In fact there were six such cities in the land conquered by the Jews in the times of Joshua. The month of Elul is a metaphor for these cities. Murder is the taking of life. Our G-dly soul is alive with, well, G-dliness. Our Animal soul through physical indulgences takes the life from the G-dly soul. Once our G-dly soul loses its spiritual sensitivity it is all spirals from there. As a consequence for this act of spiritual life taking, and to help our G-dly soul reconnect with its Divine spark and spiritual sensitivity we must go into exile. Exile in this context means putting ourselves into a space where we put our priorities back in order.

Elul is such a time. Elul is a time for us to work a little less, pray a bit more, take spiritual stock of where we are up to in life and where our connections ought to be.

Stocktaking: Do you own a business? Do you have product to sell? Imagine if you never stopped to look at your balance sheet, or your inventory? That's right you wouldn't know if you make money or lost money. You might be spinning your wheels an entire year before you realize that something is wrong. Elul is time to stop and see how sales have been, how our inventory looks. What commitments did I keep? Which ones did I not? Where did I grow this year, where did I fall short? Which product sold well, which product do I need to discard? Just as inventory requires closing the store, shutting the phone off, taking some time - so too our spiritual stocktaking requires that focus.

Be Inscribed: It is customary from the first day of Elul to wish each other the traditional blessing of, "May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life!" Consider putting this in your email or other correspondence during the next few weeks.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life

Best Wishes.

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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