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Three moments of Shabbat morning gratitude

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1.

We have set up a circle of chairs behind the synagogue, surrounded by mountains and wetland and field. At the beginning of morning prayer the air is chill, but by the time we reach the bar'chu, the formal call to prayer, some of our folks have scooted their chairs into the patch of shade beside the small cement wall. When they turn east, they turn to face the wall -- and suddenly our little cement wall becomes the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem. (It even has little finger-sized holes in it where one could place kvitlach, petitionary prayers!) I will never see that wall the same way again.

 

2.

During the Amidah, the standing prayer which is central to every Jewish service, there is a place (called the Kedusha) where the prayer calls us to imitate the choirs of angels singing "Holy, holy, holy." There is a custom of rising on our tiptoes with every repetition of the word kadosh, holy. As I am singing the Kedusha, a wee plane begins to take off from the tiny North Adams airport in the meadow behind the shul, rising into the sky precisely as we are lifting up onto our tiptoes. It is as though the plane is an angel, being buoyed by our prayers. It is as though we are angels, singing praise up into the sky.

 

3.

We sing Mi Chamocha -- the prayer which our ancestors sang after crossing the Sea of Reeds -- to the melody of "The Water Is Wide," and we intersperse the Hebrew with the words of that folk song. This is a tradition which Rabbi David brings from his synagogue on City Island, and it has become my favorite way to sing that prayer, especially when we're together and can sing it in harmony. The water is wide; I cannot get o'er. But when I know that God is with me -- when I know that I am loved by an unending love -- then whatever comes, whatever life brings, I know I won't have to cross the waters alone.

 


#blogElul 16: Pray

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Sometimes I manage
formal conversation,
a love letter morning
and evening and afternoon

but most of the time
I rely on the chat window
open between us all day.
I tell you everything.

This month you are near.
Walk with me in the fields.
I want to take your hand
and not let go.

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 15: Change

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You remind me
not to fear change.

Change is like breathing:
without it, death

(itself a change
I can't yet understand.)

You remind me
what stays the same:

roots to ground me,
hope to uplift me,

my tender heart,
my love for you.


I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 14: Learn

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What I'm here to learn:
that it's okay
to take up space
with my ungainly heart.

That I can love
what I love
and you will never
roll your eyes.

That I deserve
a place at the table
and my mistakes
won't exile me.

That when you promised
love that transcends
all space and time,
you meant it.


I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


Article about my rabbinic school

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There's a lovely article by Rachel Kurland about the ALEPH Ordination Programs in the Jewish Exponent this week. Here's how it begins:

California students call in at breakfast. East Coast students sign on during lunch. European students check in at dinner. Israeli students log in at night. Some even chat at 2:30 in the morning.
 
The ALEPH Ordination Program is not like any other rabbinical school or seminary. The program teaches people from all over the country and the world. And this year, the school will be teaching more students than ever...
Here's the part of the article which resonated most for me -- these are quotations from the dean of the program, Rabbi Marcia Prager:
 Rather than just living with what Prager called “a schmear of Judaism,” Jewish Renewal embraces all aspects of Jewish expression for the body, mind, spirit and soul. 
 
“For me personally, Jewish Renewal as an approach to Jewish life has offered us a way to blend tradition and innovation, to bring artistry, creativity, engagement, joy, passion, embodiment, to all the forms of Jewish expression that make up Jewish life,” she said. 
 
According to Prager, this incoming class is comprised of a generation of students who are passionate about learning and committed to making a contribution to the world for the future of Jewish legacy, and students are attracted to what she called the “heart-centered” learning style of the program. 
 
She added that students must not only be masters of text but of heart and soul, which is why they choose to study with ALEPH.

Read it here: ALEPH Ordination Programs Welcomes Largest Incoming Class.

(And if that interests you, you might also enjoy a post I wrote last year: What was the ALEPH rabbinic program like?)


#blogElul 13: Remember

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when I close my eyes
and when I open them again

when I'm sitting at home
and when I'm out and about

(I know I'm not supposed
to text and drive

but I send you notes anyway
full of emoji hearts)

I find excuses to mention you
because saying your name makes me smile

you shape what my hands do
and how I see the world

at every threshold
I remember your name





This poem riffs off of the prayer called the V'ahavta.

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 12: Forgive

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Always already
you've forgiven me.

I failed you.
I turned away.

I convinced myself
I didn't need you.

I made myself forget
how much sweeter

everything is
with you in it.

I was afraid
I wasn't enough.

And when I woke up
to how I need you

how I'm a better me
when I'm with you

there was no room
for shame between us.

No recrimination.
Only love.


The liturgy of Yom Kippur begins with a prayer called Kol Nidre, "All the Vows," and at the end of that prayer we sing three times Vayomer Adonai, salachti kidvarecha -- "And God said: I have forgiven you, as you have asked."

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 11: Trust

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That you love me
without reservation.

That nothing I feel
could alienate you.

That you don't want me
to be someone I'm not.

That if I went
to the ends of the earth

you'd be there too
holding me in your heart.

That if I fall
you would catch me.

That in your embrace
I am safe.


I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 10: Count

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Times when
my wrenching fear
of disappointing you

made me close off
our connection --
I remember every one.

Times when
you've been as close to me
as my own heart,

when I've been
suffused with gratitude
all day long

because of
the mere fact of you --
too many to count.


 

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 9: See

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Being seen wholly
is more intimate
than any embrace.

Being known
beyond any pretense,
any veil I wear.

Gift beyond measure:
I don't have to hide
from your loving eyes.

 


I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 8: Hear

 

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What's amazing is
that you hear me.

You hear what I say
and what I leave unsaid.

You hear the stirrings
of my most hidden heart.

What's amazing is
no matter what I say

I'll never be
too much for you.

I don't have to fear
driving you away.

Because you hear me
I'm never alone.

 


I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 7: Be

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You make me want
to be better.

In your eyes
I become more.

No one else sees me
the way you do.

I see myself
through your eyes

and think: that's not
the me I know me to be.

It's the me I become
when I'm with you.

I want to be
what you see in me.


 

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 6: Know

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You know everything
there is to know.

Who I am, and who I was
last time round.

How I carry myself
(eyes forward, head high)

when there's a chasm
gaping in my chest

and how my voice wavers
when I'm overcome with joy.

You know what I yearn for
even the parts I don't admit.

How impossibly lucky
I feel, because

I get to fall asleep
with you in my heart

and begin every day
by greeting you.

You know how much
beyond words means.

 


I wrote a response to this prompt in prose, but I wasn't satisfied with it. It felt like it was all stuff I'd said before. So I scrapped it, and wrote this poem instead. I think it's part of the same series of love poems to the Beloved which began with Your voice knocks.

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 5: Accept

BlogElul+5776When someone I love is suffering, I don't want to accept it. When someone I love is navigating illness or depression: I don't want to accept it.

When someone I love is hurting, I want to do everything I can to mitigate against it. My mind races, asking: what can I do to make this better?

What can I say? What could I put in the mail to them? What little surprise could I arrange to leave by their door? Can't I do something?

I am rereading Rabbi Alan Lew's This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation again.

Here is a passage which leapt out at me, from the section of the Elul chapter dedicated to this week's Torah portion, Shoftim:

We know that emotions are contagious. We know that they do not honor the boundaries of self, and even seem to mock them. We all have the same heart. So if someone is afraid, the Torah tells us, we had better send him home from battle before the fear spreads from his heart to ours. The fear is more real than the self.

But this emotional contagion is not limited to fear. Fear is only one example of what ripples soul to soul and heart to heart. Love also does this. So does happiness. So does suffering...

What is occluding the deep connection between you and your fellow human beings? That is also right there over your heart, and that also needs to be looked at. One of the things that most often impedes this connection is our fear of one another's pain.

I love his language of "rippl[ing] soul to soul and heart to heart." Grief does this. Suffering does this. And love does this. He writes, later in that same section, that the problem is not that our loved ones suffer; the problem is our false sense that there's something we're supposed to be able to do about it.

And he tells a story about how, as a hospital chaplain, he would linger outside a patient's door, letting his own fears and anxieties crest: what can I do, I can't fix it, I want to fix it and I can't. And then he would remind himself that his role was not to fix: it was to be present, with acceptance and with love.

When my loved ones are struggling, I find myself in the same boat. I don't want to accept their circumstance; I want to find some way to fix it or improve it. Sometimes I can sweeten it, and I'm glad when that turns out to be true. But ultimately, my job isn't to fix. It's to be present, and to love.

That's what I need to accept. I don't have control over whether and how my loved ones suffer. But I can try to always be present to them with a whole heart and with willingness to let myself be moved.

 

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 4: Understand

Sometimes our high holiday liturgy may be difficult to understand. There are a lot of words. There are extra prayers and poems and hymns. There are allusions to theology -- or more accurately, to theologies, plural, because our understanding of God has shifted and changed over the millennia, and some of our liturgy is very old indeed.  As time goes by, I find that I am less interested in helping people understand the liturgy, and more interested in helping them experience it.

Yes, there's merit in understanding our prayers -- whether one is davening them in Hebrew (which for Diaspora Jews is not our first language) or in the vernacular (because even in the vernacular sometimes they're opaque.) But if I have the choice between teaching someone about a prayer, and helping them enter into that prayer, I'll choose the second one. There is a different kind of understanding which can arise not via intellectual inquiry but via experience and heart.

In antiquity the heart was understood to be the center of thought and knowledge. (Today we think of the heart as the seat of emotions, and the brain as the seat of intellect, but that's a relatively new development.) So when our liturgy asks God to open our hearts, the original intention was what we might today call a request for help in opening our minds to enlightenment. But I like the idea that mind and heart are connected. We can seek to understand not only with mind but also with heart.

When you anticipate the Days of Awe coming up in less than a month, where does your mind take you? Are there things -- customs, prayers, texts -- which trip you up, which are difficult to relate to or to understand? What might happen if you let go of the desire for intellectual mastery and instead allowed yourself to relax into experiencing those customs, or prayers, or texts without judgement, without the need to agree or disagree -- what new modes of understanding might arise?

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I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


I seek your face (for #blogElul 3: Search)

 

show me your face
in the face in front of me



show me your light
in familiar eyes

show me your heart
in the overflowing of mine



show me how to be hollow
so you can pour through me



show me your name
written in the wheeling stars

show me my name
written across lifetimes



in the face of my beloved
show me your face

 





Many years ago I heard Rabbi Jeff Roth offer the teaching that the mind is like tofu: it takes on the flavor of whatever one marinates it in. During the four weeks of Elul, I'm marianting in two melodic settings of parts of Psalm 27.

One is the Kirtan Rabbi's set of chants which use verses from that psalm, tracks 2-4 on his CD Achat Sha'alti (One Thing I Ask.) And the other is Nava Tehila's setting of verse 8, Lach Amar Libi:

This poem arose out of these two excerpts from the psalm. "One thing I ask of You --" and "You called to my heart, 'seek My face' -- Your face, Source of All, is what I seek!"

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I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


#blogElul 2: Act

BlogElul+5776One of the challenges of spiritual life is figuring out how to infuse mundane acts with spirit and heart. Can I train myself to wake in the morning and immediately put down the needle of my mental record player in the groove of gratitude?

If I say a blessing, aloud or silently, before eating -- does that change my experience of that act? How about actions like checking email -- can I make that an opportunity for increased spiritual wakefulness, instead of something rote?

There are actions I take which feel sacred, no question about that. Putting on my tallit (and, on weekdays, tefillin) for prayer. Sharing a song, or a cup of coffee, with someone who is dear to me; brightening someone's day with a gesture of love.

And then there are acts which feel disconnected from spiritual life: washing the dishes, putting gas in the car, dealing with the giant to-do lists which proliferate at this season like mushrooms after a rain. Listening to voicemail messages. Taking out the trash. And yet the Hasidic tradition would argue that even those acts, precisely those acts, can be made holy if we do them with awareness.

Getting ready for the Days of Awe isn't something which happens only during the moments when I have the luxury of dedicating myself wholly to meditation or prayer. Preparing for the holidays on a spiritual level goes on all through this month, in every act I undertake -- whether putting money in the tzedakah box, or trying to get our kid dressed and out the door for school, or responding (or not responding!) to an email which has pushed my buttons and brought forth a vehement response.

The question isn't how I act when I know everything is on the line -- at some public function, or leading High Holiday services, or presiding over a funeral for someone I respected and admired. Of course I bring my best self to those occasions. I think God may be more interested in how I act in my every day. How we all act in our every day. For me that's one of the meta-themes of this month: how do I act? Am I putting on an act? Do my actions reflect my truest heart, the person I most want to be?

 

 

I'm participating again this year in #blogElul, an internet-wide carnival of themed posts aimed at waking the heart and soul before the Days of Awe. (Organized by Ima Bima.) Read #blogElul posts via the Elul tag; last year's posts are now available in print and e-book form as See Me: Elul poems.


On meteors, the night sky, and seeing ourselves in a new light - thoughts for Elul

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A few nights ago a friend reminded us that the Perseid meteors were going to be visible. So around 9pm we turned off all of our lights and went outside and lay on our backs on the deck and stared up at the sky. I knew it would take a while for my eyes to adjust.

From the moment I looked up at the heavens I was awestruck by the sheer number of stars. And I thought to myself: even if I don't see any meteors, dayenu, it's enough, because this is so beautiful. And then I saw one streak across the sky, and it was amazing.

I know that we are blessed to live in a place that doesn't have a lot of "light pollution" -- where we can turn off our lights and really see the night sky. And I know that the reason the stars were so visible is that there was almost no moon.

Because this weekend is Rosh Chodesh -- new moon. Now the moon starts growing again. This is one of the things I love about being attuned to the Jewish calendar: it means I'm also always attuned to the phases of the moon as she waxes and wanes.

The moon will grow for two weeks, and shrink for two weeks, and the next new moon is Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, also known as Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah is four weeks from this Sunday. Maybe for some of you that doesn't sound like a big deal. So what? You're not writing sermons or preparing services, so does it really make a difference to you? I want to say today that it can make a difference -- and I hope that it will.

Our tradition teaches that this is a month during which we should deepen our spiritual practices, whatever they may be. This is a month for spiritual preparation, a month during which we look back on the year now ending. Who have you been, since last Rosh Hashanah?

What are you proud of, and what do you feel ashamed of? When were you the best self you know how to be, and when did you fall short? How's your relationship with God these days -- whatever that word or idea means to you?

If we spend these next four weeks in introspection, discerning where we may have mis-stepped and where we forged a wise path, then when we get to Rosh Hashanah we'll experience those two days of prayer and song and story in a different way.

If we spend these next four weeks rekindling our spiritual practices -- be they yoga, or meditation, or prayer, or walking in the woods -- then when we metaphorically call up God on Rosh Hashanah we won't need to be afraid of hearing, "it's been a whole year -- nu, you don't write, you don't call...!"

One Hasidic teaching holds that Elul is the time when "the King is in the fields" -- when God leaves the divine palace on high and enters creation to walk with us in the meadows and listen to the deepest yearnings of our hearts. God is extra-available to us this month. What do we most need to say?

BlogElul+5776Another Hasidic teaching points out that the name of this month, Elul, can be read as an acronym for אני לדודי ודודי לי / Ani l'dodi v'dodi li -- "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine." The Beloved, in this context, is God. We belong to God, and God belongs to us, and what connects us is love.

The stars are there every night, but we can only see them when there are no clouds and when the moon has dwindled. The opportunity to do the work of teshuvah, repentance / return, is there all year long -- but some seasons of the year offer us special opportunities to see ourselves in a new light.

This is a time of month when the night sky is filled with tiny lights. And this is a time of year when we can open our hearts and souls to the light of God's presence as we do the work of discernment and transformation. Imagine what we might see in ourselves if we take the time to let our eyes adjust.

Here's to a meaningful Elul.

This is the d'var Torah (really more of a word about the season) which I offered at my shul yesterday. It's also my offering for the first day of #blogElul. I'm not committing to posting something daily for #blogElul this year, but here's an offering for day 1.


Making my morning coffee holy

Cup-of-coffeeSometimes in the morning I find myself singing the words אין מספיק כפה בעולם / ein maspik cafe ba'olam -- "there's not enough coffee in the world" -- to the Rizhyner's melody for Ana B'Koach. (That's the first mp3 of the several on this NeoHasid page.)

And then I acquire a cup of joe, and I change my tune. Instead of bemoaning what I don't have, I celebrate what I do. The blessing I say over my morning coffee is a line from our daily liturgy, and the practice of using it in this way is one I learned from my friend Rabbi Megan Doherty.

In the daily amidah, the prayer which is recited standing and which is central to every Jewish service, there is a blessing which ends with the line ברוך אתה ה' מחייה המתים / baruch atah Adonai m'chayyeh ha-meitim –– "Blessed are You, Adonai, Who enlivens the dead." In modern times, some prayerbooks have amended the final word from מתים to הכל, so that it now reads "Blessed are You, Adonai, Who enlivens all things." Others amend the translation to "...Who enlivens the deadened."

Jewish teachings about resurrection, and how those ideas have shifted and changed over the last few thousand years or so, could make up their own very long post. For now, just take it as read that this phrase is part of our standard daily liturgy, and that these days it's understood in a variety of different ways. (If you're interested in learning more about Jewish ideas on death and resurrection, there's a decent overview at My Jewish Learning: Jewish Resurrection of the Dead.)

With the shifted translation -- making the bracha not about literal resurrection, per se, but about God Who brings life to that which had been deadened -- I've used this blessing sometimes over antidepressants. (See my poem Change, which appears in my second collection Waiting to Unfold.) In general I like the broader translation, and as a poet I think it's an entirely fair way to render  המתים  / hameitim. Anyway, these days I make this blessing over my first cup of morning caffeine.

Coffee

Here's the blessing most people offer.

The traditional blessing over coffee would be  שהכל נהיה בדברו / shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro – "...Who creates all things with Your word." That's the standard blessing which we recite over any food or drink which doesn't have its own blessing -- it's the catch-all for everything else. I like that blessing too. But I like doing coffee differently. It's a sweet little moment of ritual. It helps me sanctify one of the day's most mundane acts. And it reminds me to be thankful for being alive and being enlivened, every day.

 

 

Related: Morning blessings with Drew, 2013. Also, if you like the idea of prayers relating to coffee or tea, you might enjoy this pair of Caffeine (tea and coffee) Litanies I saw on Twitter recently.

 


Six ways to heighten Elul

ElulThis weekend we'll enter into the lunar month of Elul -- the four weeks leading up to the Days of Awe. This is the time to begin the journey of introspection and reflection which can deeply enrich your experiences of the High Holidays.

Who have you been, over the last year? What are the things you feel great about, the things you're proud of? What are the things you feel not-so-great about, the places where you missed the mark?

One tradition says that Elul is the time to work on teshuvah, repentance / repair, in relationship with God: whatever you understand that term to mean -- God far above or deep within, the Source of meaning, the Cosmos, Parent, Beloved, whatever metaphor works best for you. This is also a good time to work on repairing our relationships with ourselves: where have we disappointed ourselves, and how can we learn to offer ourselves forgiveness? What are we most grateful for, and how can we cultivate that gratitude in our lives every day?

If we spend Elul engaged in this work, then by the time Rosh Hashanah rolls around we will already be steeped in the themes of the season, and the prayers in our prayerbook may resonate in a different way... and we'll be better prepared to spend the Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Teshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, mending our relationships with the people in our lives. First we repair our relationship with our Source; then we can repair our relationships with each other.

Here are six ways to dive deeper into Elul:

  1. Take a few minutes every day to breathe deeply, be present in the moment, and take your emotional-spiritual temperature: how are you feeling, not physically but emotionally? What's arising in you today?
  2. On social media check out the hashtag #blogElul, which all month long will bring you blog posts and tweets on themes of repentance and return. (This is an annual thing organized by Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, a.k.a. Ima Bima.) You can participate, too, if you're so inclined!
  3. Read an Elul poem every day and spend a few moments letting the poem soak in and seeing what it awakens in you. (Locals: contact me about buying or borrowing a copy of See Me: Elul Poems . You can also buy the book on Amazon if you are so inclined, and if you order the paper edition, you can get the e-book for 99 cents.)
  4. Come to Shabbat services. Dip into song and prayer with community. You may find that it opens your heart and enlivens your spirit in ways you didn't expect.
  5. Read, pray, or sing Psalm 27 every day. This is the psalm our sages assigned to this month. Here are some different versions to try:
    1. Reb Zalman (z"l)'s English translation
    2. One verse of the psalm set to music, in Hebrew, by Nava Tehila
    3. Alicia Ostriker's psalm 27
    4. Achat Sha'alti melody by I. Katz
    5. R' Brant Rosen's English translation
    6. Kirtan Rabbi's Achat Sha'alti (info) and mp3
  6. Go for a walk. Another tradition teaches that Elul is the month when God leaves the divine palace on high and wanders in the fields, waiting for us to come and walk and talk and pour out our hearts. Take time this month to walk in the fields, hike up the mountains, and silently or out loud say to God whatever you need to.

I hope that some or all of these speak to you. We're entering one of my favorite months of the year. If we open ourselves to it, it can work some powerful transformations on our hearts and on our souls.

Wishing everyone an early chodesh tov -- may your month of Elul be meaningful and sweet.

 

I wrote this to send to my congregational community, and then decided y'all might enjoy it too, so I'm crossposting it (with a few modifications) here.