For some people, the month before Rosh Hashana is set aside for “cleaning out closets.” These organized individuals would search through their clothes in the closet and drawers and even under their beds, and put everything into piles.
- One pile was to keep,
- Another to donate, and
- A third to give to close family friends.
Elul: The Month to Clean Out the Mess
This ritual of cleaning out their closets was just one way we prepared for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the month of Elul, the Hebrew month we are currently in, Jewish families all over the world are engaging in a ritual similar to cleaning out the closet. Except its not about clothes; its about cleaning up our relationships.
The name Elul is considered an acronym. Its four Hebrew letters – Aleph Lamed Vav Lamed – are the first letters of the Biblical verse Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. These holy words are part of the love poetry recited at Jewish weddings. Yet they also shed light everyday on our relationships with family and with friends.
The month of Elul calls us time to focus on just our relationships, providing us time to clean out our relationship closet. How do we do that? Similarly to cleaning out our closets, we make piles, in the form of lists.
Each Elul a friend of mine writes down three lists on a piece of paper:
- One of people he needs to call to tell them that he loves them and how important they are to him.
- A second dedicated to those who he needs to call and reconnect with, people who he has lost touch with and needs to reach out to, and
- A third list – the most challenging – includes people who he has wronged, people he needs to call and ask for their forgiveness.
Making these lists and picking up the phone takes time and commitment. But isn’t that the purpose of the upcoming holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Taking the time and committing to fixing our lives and repairing our world?
These list and the actions that follow help us create a world of Elul, a world filled with people who have mutual respect and compassion for one another. Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li.
May this month of Elul help us all rekindle old flames as well as extinguish the fires that rage on inside of us.
A Prayer for the Month of Elul
By Cantor Lisa Levine
Open up my heart
And fill it full of blessing
Open up my spirit
So I may listen well
To the voice,
The still, small voice
Crumble away fear
And forgive transgressions
Done in pain and anger
Redeemed through patience
Join us for Selichot
Prepare yourself during our outdoor meditational, musical service under the stars, during which we prepare individually and as a community for the journey into the High Holy Days. More information here.