Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting a Start on Elul.

This will be my third year blogging The High Holidays on Just call me Chaviva. Every year I've lamented resolutions, my desire to make them and starting the year off with failings on my heels. I think that I can happily say that this is the first year in many years that I feel like I am trailing through the month of Elul with confidence, with a direction, and with intention. I'm kosher, I'm shomer Shabbos, I'm dressing the way I want, I'm on a set and defined path for my Orthodox conversion, and I'm just happy darn't. I'm excited about everything. I'm doing the High Holidays for the first time in an Orthodox shul, sans organs and musical extravagencies outside the beauty of the voice. And, did I mention I now have my very own Shabbos room right around the corner from shul where I can make Shabbos meals? My first big meal will be the Shabbos of Rosh Hashanah; I'm stoked.

But most importantly, my life is finally in sync with my emotions, my hopes, my absolute needs. So let me say a few things.

1) If I have wronged you in any way over the past year, please accept my apology. If I've offended you, whether intentionally or unintentionally, please know that I'm forever apologetic from the bottoms of my soles.

2) The month of Elul is about repentance. In Aramaic, the word "elul" means "search." So it is in this month that we search our hearts, our lives, our worlds. This is why I'm asking for forgiveness. I'm searching out everyone that I've wronged, because G-d can't forgive me until the direct individuals I've wronged forgive me. I think that's a powerful thing. The importance of this world, our connections and interactions with the individuals around us, is most important.

Now, some morsels of wisdom from years gone past. From last year:
So I sat down tonight with Martin Buber's "The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidim " because it's 41 pages long and took me about five seconds to plow through. There was a lot of interesting -- and relevant -- stuff in the text which I really want to share with you, my ever-so-lucky readers! In a chapter discussing the tenet of "Not to Be Preoccupied With Oneself," Buber discusses the significance of "turning" or what we know of as teshuvah, which is incredibly appropriate for this period of the Jewish calendar. He tells of a rabbi who married his son to the daughter of Rabbi Eliezer. After the wedding, the rabbi approaches Rabbi Eliezer and tells him that he feels close to him now, that he can tell him what is eating at his heart, he says "My hair and beard have grown white, and I have not yet atoned!" Rabbi Eliezer's response is "Oh my friend, you are thinking only of yourself. How about forgetting yourself and thinking of the world?" Buber, in his wisdom, says that essentially what Rabbi Eliezer is saying is "Do not keep worrying about what you have done wrong, but apply the soul power you are now wasting on self-reproach, to such active relationship to the world as you are destined for. You should not be occupied with yourself but with the world." Buber goes on to iterate a sermon by the Rabbi of Ger on the Day of Atonement, and I think it sums up something pretty worthwhile for considering at this season:
"He who has done ill and talks about it and thinks about it all the time does not cast the base thing he did out of his thoughts, and whatever one thinks, therein one is, one's soul is wholly and utterly in what one thinks, and so he dwells in baseness. He will certainly not be able to turn, for his spirit will grow coarse and his heart stubborn, and in addition to this he may be overcome by gloom. What would you? Rake the muck this way, rake the muck that way -- it will always be muck. Have I sinned, or have I not sinned -- what does Heaven get out of it? In the time I am brooding over it I could be stringing pearls for the delight of Heaven. That is why it is written: "Depart from evil and do good" -- turn wholly away from evil, do not dwell upon it, and do good. You have done wrong? Then counteract it by doing right."
And from two years ago, on the parshah of Moses' departure:
In this week's parshah, Moses sings to Am Yisrael, saying "Remember the days of old / Consider the years of many generations / Ask your father, and he will recount it to you / Your elders, and they will tell you" how G-d "found them in a desert land." Moses tells them how G-d made them a people, chose them as His own and gave them a bountiful land. So I remember and give thanks for my people, past and present, not to mention the future of the Jewish nation.
And even older ... from 2004 ... "L'shana tova, almost!"

I can't believe how many years I've been doing this.

**For the gnarly kids Rosh Hashanah set, visit!