We are a week into the month of Elul— the last month of the Jewish year.
After a summer filled with outings, sun, and visits with friends, Jews begin to think about getting back into our regular routine. If you are a teacher, you begin your year at school. If you are a student, you have began school. If you are neither a student nor a teacher, you begin for another season of beginnings. Endings and beginnings. Ending the Jewish year by beginning the last of the Jewish months, Elul. , The rabbis comment that this is an acronym for four Hebrew words: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” אני לדודי ודודי לי This translates to “I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me.” In a world that values the self, what does it mean to be for someone else? Looking back at my own life, some of the most gratifying moments or highlights were my realization of my role as a friend, a wife, and a parent.
Our tradition teaches us that Moses ascended Mount Sinai on the first of Elul. Moses went up to receive the Ten Commandments, as well as the entire Torah, written and oral. He was there for forty days and forty nights, which, after simple calculation, indicates that he came down on Yom Kippur, known also as the Jewish Day of Atonement. While he was up on the mountain, the people of Israel were awaiting his arrival by fasting and praying. He returned on Yom Kippur (the tenth of Tishrei), a day when each one of us is being judged by God for our actions, deeds, and misdeeds.
What impresses me most about this story, however, is that this was not the first time Moses ascended Mount Sinai. This was his second time! The first time was on the Jewish date of the seventeenth of Tammuz. While Moses was away on top of Mount Sinai, the people of Israel sinned, and when he descended from the mountain and saw the people worshiping a golden calf, he smashed the tablets. Many people died, and the people of Israel were punished. What happened next is most revealing as to how to approach the month of Elul, the month that, according to Jewish tradition, is a time of reflection. Elul is a month when we measure our actions and missteps and commit ourselves to a more righteous path.
What did Moses do? He climbed back up. In a moment when he felt most defeated, he did not give up. He knew that to try again was his only choice. He successfully did what he had failed to do before. This inspires me and gives me hope! If we know we have wronged someone, we need to approach them and start a conversation to determine how we can do teshuvah, how we can seek forgiveness and return to our path by recognizing our wrongdoing. How can we turn around the situation to make a better outcome? Ask yourself these questions….And let’s meet next week. Right here!