This month is a special one within the Jewish calendar. Elul begins. This is the last month of the Jewish year and in it, we are asked to slowly prepare our souls for the coming High Holidays. The pace of the month reflects the changes in the secular world. Our Jewish world picks up pace as our secular world does. Summer ends, schools begin, new program years begin. Day are noticeably shorter and with this, we are reminded of the passage of time. Soon Rosh Hoshonnah will be upon us and a new year. This is a time of reflection. Where have we come from in this past year? How are we different. What challenges have we had to endure and what joys have we experienced? Who is no longer here and whom have we welcomed into our families? This is also a time of looking ahead. We look to see what we would like to do, what we would like to happen; and we hope and pray that circumstances allow for our own growth and the chance to continue to experience life to its fullest.
These emotions are why I love the High Holiday prayer called the u’netaneh tokef. It is the prayer that speaks of the imagery of “who shall live and who shall die”. The symbolism is stark and direct. The prayer reminds us that we control s small amount of what happens to us. What we do really control is how we deal with the randomness of our own existence. The choices we make do determine the type of person we become. These ideas are a theme of the Torah readings on the HIgh Holidays. In the end, who we are comes down to the choices we make. That is why we read on Yom Kippur that we are asked to choose wisely, to “choose life”, so that we and those who come after us will live.
Choose well and may you and yours be blessed with a year of peace and health.
Shalom and L’shana Tovah
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min.