Cleaning The Vase

For Jews, the month of Elul, starting this Sunday, represents the warm up.  Like a real exercise class, we all need a warm-up before the aerobic part begins, right? The “aerobic” sections begins with Rosh Hashana, our New Year, and this particular warm-up is needed for the coming month of Tishrei, where we celebrate four holidays! Yes, four!! More about them in my upcoming blogs. But today, as we are just about to start the month of Elul, I invite you to value this particular time for introspection, for reviewing actions we have done the previous year (apologizing when necessary) and deciding what to improve on in the coming year.  It is time to affirm again our family bonds and our connections with the people we love.

Elul is the time to start delving into the heart. Into your heart. Each one, to his or her own heart. What do you wish for yourself? Where do you want to improve your life? It’s between your thoughts, and your lips. And your God (spiritual guide, nature, the source, whatever you want to call it). It’s time to reflect on how you treat your friends, your parents, your siblings, your colleagues, your teachers (if the reader is a student).  Do you greet others with a smiling disposition?  Are you courteous? Do you show you care? Do you show kindness?

The word Elul can be looked at as an acronym, ani l’dodi v’dodi li. I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me. Do you have a relationship with someone else you value? How do you show that you value them?

As I mentioned at the opening email to this blog, I like to compare us to a vase. In the month of Elul, we all are a murky and water-stained vase by now. Our flowers (call them relationships) have been nourished by the water in our vase for a while and we may have not changed the water much…And then what happens..?? The water forms film on the vase and we are unable to view the brilliancy of the water or the beauty of the vase. It happens to everyone. All the time. Don’t let anyone tell you that they have the perfect relationships always. It would not be true. The big question is how do we move forward? How do we change the water?

Here are a few of the middot (Jewish values) you may want to consider that can help improve if not reverse a broken relationship….  Derech Eretz -self control: Must we say everything we feel? Maybe sometimes restraint is needed?

Nedivut -generosity: Give the benefit of the doubt when unsure. Generosity can be in the spirit realm not only in chairty! Kavod -respect: I am big on this one nowadays, but I am learning that even though I may ask for it, I can really only control giving it…. Kenut -honesty: This is important, and perhaps we can do it with more gentility this month? Lo levayesh -not embarrassing other people: A form of embarrassing a person can be mimicking. Perhaps this month we can work on controlling ourselves when we feel the urge to mimic others? Chaverut- friendship: That word shares the same root as connection, chibur. When you form a friendship, you form a connection. It takes time but once you really invest time and achieve that- you get the prize—you have gained the value of a friendship. It really is worth every penny! And last, Ha-aracha – appreciation: Wouldn’t you want to be appreciated? I know I do! So, who is up for the challenge—let’s try to practice and live out some of these values, and I promise—appreciation is on its way!

With all my heart,