The new month of Elul began on Monday night of this week. Elul is the last month of 5774 and with its arrival we start to turn our hearts and minds and souls toward the High Holy Days. In some synagogues the shofar is sounded each morning during daily worship. In other communities, special meditations, psalms, and prayers are read daily. Each is a call to repent from transgressions and sins in preparation for the New Year and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
As Elul unfolds around us this is a good time for each of us to begin the process of cheshbon hanefesh, taking an accounting of our soul. It is time for each of us to ask the big questions. What relationships need repair? What can I do better in the year to come? How will I achieve and follow through with my goals? How can I be a better Jew? A better person? What must I change? How will I change?
Our Torah portion this week, Shoftim, tells us “You must be wholehearted before God” (Deuteronomy 18:13). This means we must be sincere in our relationship with the Divine, with the Holy. We must not be distracted by or serve other gods and goddesses or worship power. Even if we have doubts and questions, we Jews are to be in relationship with that Source of All. During the month of Elul as we take an accounting of our acts, deeds, words, transgression, sins and accomplishments we do so in order to stand at the New Year with a whole heart before our community and yes, our God.
This is exactly what happened to Moses our teacher. On the first of Elul after the Exodus, Moses is said to have climbed Mt. Sinai again. This is after he broke the first set of the Ten Commandments in response to the sin of the Golden Calf. During these next 40 days Moses communed with God. Moses wrote the second set of Tablets (The first had been written by God). And during this time Moses reconciled God and the Jewish people. Moses according to tradition was able to seek God and come to know God when God’s back passed before him. He learned the power of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation and sought that for the people of Israel. That is why this month of Elul is such a powerful time for forgiveness from our transgressions and sins. God’s attributes of love and compassion are turned toward us as they were turned toward our ancestors.
So take advantage of this month of Elul to prepare to stand “wholehearted before God” and prepare your soul for the important holy days ahead. And in 40 days from the first of Elul-on Yom Kippur Day we will arise together at the close of Neilah, healed, renewed, and forgiven from our errors. But the time to begin the process is now.