I thought about writing a love poem. "Love" and "poetry" go together like apples and honey, right? But I think that all of the Elul poems I've written, this year and last, are at their root love poems.
Elul is the month whose name forms an acronym for Ani l'dodi v'dodi li, "I am my Beloved's and my Beloved is mine." This whole month is about cultivating love between us and our Beloved.
Nava Tehila's Lach Amar Libi is a love song. God calls to us to seek God's face. In return we affirm that we seek the divine Presence, we seek to connect face-to-face and heart-to-heart with love.
The liturgy we've inherited for the Days of Awe makes frequent use of the metaphor of God-as-Judge. The Days of Awe call us to discern who we are, to judge our own selves, to notice where we've gone wrong and how we might make amends. But we can only do that when we know we are loved.
It's because we spend this month steeping in love -- our love for God; God's love for us -- that we can face the hard work of judging ourselves, the hard experience of standing before God and knowing that everything we are, everything we have done and not-done, everything we have thought and felt, is written in the book of our lives by our own hands and we need to take responsibility for all of it.
The qualities of ahavah and yir'ah, love and awe (or love and fear), go hand in hand. Our qualities of love and awe go together like God's qualities of mercy and judgement: they are two sides of one divine coin. In order for me to feel safe going deep into the awe and fear and discernment embedded in the High Holidays, I need to spend Elul reminding myself that I am loved by an unending love.
And so are you.
No matter what.
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.