We have entered the month of Elul and the High Holy Days will soon be upon us. At this time of year, the rhythm of Jewish life is so apparent. Judaism keeps us on track with rituals, holidays and life cycle events. Each measurement reminds us of who we are and strengthens our Jewish identity.
We begin with daily reminders and blessings throughout the day. Kashruth, of course, is a way of remembering our Jewishness every time we take a bite. Nothing is better than Shabbat, yet today too many of us do not take a day off, let alone enjoy a traditional Shabbat. From the moment we begin preparing for Shabbat, we are slowing down from the craziness of the week. Today in America, it seems like we have forgotten the need to not only relax but to reflect.
Yearly, we have holidays galore that fill the Jewish calendar and are complete with rituals and memory making opportunities. Life cycle events are always special but Judaism does them the best — from a brit and baby naming to how we mourn those who have died, the rituals guide us and make the moments so special. Sometimes we don’t realize how Jewish time is reflected in our daily lives and even in our speech — “Where are you going for the holidays?” or “What time is the shiva minyan?”
So now we begin the year with Rosh Hashanah. Actually, we begin now with the month of Elul. The tradition is to begin blowing the shofar each morning during Elul. This is one of those rituals that reminds me that Judaism is so practical. We need to blow the shofar so that we can practice (very few people are blowing shofars throughout the year but I did just find out that the Dallas Symphony has a shofar blower on call when a piece of music requires it). But the real goal is not for practice. Rather, it is for us to hear the shofar and start thinking — what happened this past year? What changes do I need to make in my behavior? Who do I need to apologize to?
There is much to think about beyond planning dinner and buying new clothes. So during Elul, listen to the shofar, think and thank!
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.