The holidays are “late” this year — we had two Adars back in the spring and now everything is back to being late! However, the month of Elul is coming up quickly and this is the month that we get ready for the High Holidays. We are a people who do not take repentance lightly and we have a month to prepare for change (although we should be looking at ourselves throughout the year to make ourselves and the world a better place). So how to prepare? There are so many ways, but first must be the desire to grow and reflect on your life. Isn’t it amazing that the sages thought of having a full month to prepare? But that means we need to do the work ourselves!
One of the “rules” of Elul is to hear the shofar each day at the end of the morning service. Of course, there are many reasons why that is in the month of Elul, plus lots more info on shofar blowing that you can find on the internet. A reason that is a bit irreverent may be that if you are a shofar blower, you have a month to practice. However, the goal is not just to hear, but that the sound is a wake-up call. Each day at the J, you will find me in the lobby blowing the shofar. Now I am not an official shofar blower but I can do a pretty good job (after practicing). Hopefully if you walk through the lobby at the J, the sound will create reflection.
As a confirmed biblioholic, my first step is to ask about a book! The website myjewishlearning.com made it easy with a suggestion of nine books to get:
“This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Rabbi Alan Lew
“Entering the High Holy Days: A Complete Guide to the History, Prayers, and Themes” by Rabbi Reuven Hammer
“Prayers of Awe”: Nine-book series by multiple authors
“Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe” by Dr. Erica Brown
“Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life” —in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)” by Sarah Hurwitz
“To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
“On Repentance And Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World” by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg
“60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays” by Rabbi Simon Jacobson
“How Good Do We Have to Be? A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness” by Rabbi Harold Kushner
Fortunately for me, I already have a few but I am not going to make recommendations (all are available on Amazon but I am not advertising).
Another great option is jewelsofelul.com. You can get a “jewel” via email each day or buy the booklet. These “jewels” have been produced by Craig Taubman for the Pico Union Project. There are so many things you can do and learn — find what is right for you and your family. Teshuvah (repentance) is not a “one-size-fits-all” experience but start by thinking of this month of Elul as a gift! So now, get ready to get ready!
Laura Seymour is Camp director emeritus and Jewish Experiential Learning director at the Aaron Family JCC.