The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

The Magic of Elul

Elul is the 12th and final month in the Jewish calendar. It is a month before Rosh HaShanah that connects the past year with the coming year - a time when we reflect on where we stand and where we should be going. It is said that in this month, G‑d is readily accessible, willing to hear our requests and listen to our prayers for the coming new year. Every day during the month of Elul, we blow the shofar and recite special Psalms in anticipation of the High Holidays, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Elul is the time when “The King is in the field” - right here in our neighborhood, at our jobs, in our homes. The king's usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy.  However, there are times when the King comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach; the King receives them all with a smiling face and outstretched arms. The month of Elul is when the “King is in the field.”

Elul is an opportune time for introspection. It is a time to think about the year that passed and our goals for the coming year. Sometimes we can get so caught up with comparing ourselves to others, that we miss the point. But introspection means looking inner, looking at ourselves and our potential.

Elul is our chance to seek G‑d out in a more open and personal way, without protocol blocking the way. Irrespective of what we have or have not achieved in the last year and irrespective of how we compare to the guy or girl next door, it is our opportunity to focus on strengthening and developing our own personal and intimate relationship with G‑d.

During the month of Elul, we engage in introspection and self-evaluation.  On Rosh Hashanah, we explore our personal and communal connection to G‑d and renew our belief that we can make a difference in our world.  During the Ten Days of Repentance which climax on Yom Kippur, we confront the negativity in our past. We then connect ourselves to our ultimate Source at a level deeper than our shortcomings can reach, and, with the power of that bond, transform the bitterness of the past into the sweetness of a better future.

The festival of Rosh HaShanah is observed on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (this year corresponding to September 6th).  In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah means, literally, "Head of the Year," and, as its name indicates, it is the beginning of the new Jewish year, 5782. Rosh HaShanah is not just a Jewish holiday. Rosh HaShanah is the birthday of humankind, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, highlighting the special relationship between God and humanity. 

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, is observed on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei      (this year corresponding to September 16th).   Yom Kippur commemorates the day when G-d forgave us for the sin of the Golden Calf.   Forty days after hearing G-d say at Mount Sinai, “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence; you shall not make for yourself a graven image,” we committed the sin of idolatry. Moses spent nearly three months on top of the mountain pleading with G-d for forgiveness, and on the tenth of Tishrei it was finally granted: “Sawlachti” (“I have pardoned, as you have requested.”)

The words of Psalm 27 come to mind: “G-d is my light.”  The purpose of light is to reveal. It enables us to see clearly that which it shines upon. The light reveals our flaws and reveals our potential to transcend those flaws.  It reveals that we are not a separate entity from G‑d, but an extension of G‑d’s essence.  It reveals our ability to see this divine quality in everyone else as well.  Let us open ourselves up to the G‑dly light within us and transform ourselves and our world - for good.

On Rosh HaShanah we say, “Shanah Tovah!”

Happy New Year!

On Yom Kippur we say, “G’mar Chatimah Tovah.”

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Rabbi Stuart Paris, HaKohen

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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah