Tag Archives: Elul

Accepting our limits allows us to go farther

15 Sep

Tomorrow night is Rosh HaShanah – the daily Elul thought will transform into daily thought for the High Holy Days or Days of Awe, as the month of Elul will end, and become the month of Tishrei. Make sure to take time out to acknowledge the Jewish New Year on Sunday night, and Monday, and Tuesday. L’shanah tovh u’metukah – a good and sweet new year to everyone!

Today we look at Va-yak-heil, Exodus 35:1 – 38:20 – the gathering of the donations to build the Tabernacle, and the fashioning of the pieces and construction takes place.

Perhaps the only not-for profit effort in all time to be so enthusiastically completed, as it says here in Exodus, Chapter 36:
5: …The people are bringing much more than enough for the service of (doing) the work that God has commanded, to make it!
6 So Moses commanded and they had a call go throughout the camp, saying: Man and woman-let them not make-ready any further work-material for the contribution of the Holy-shrine! So the people were stopped from bringing;
7 the work-material was enough for them, for all the work, to make it, and more.

As we think about Elul, we might look back on the last year and note how often we felt the opposite of this. How often did we feel depleted and without the resources to complete the tasks we set before us?

Is this about the demands made upon us by our tasks, or is it about the number of tasks and the details we promise to get done?

When the task is finite, we can complete it with enthusiasm. If the goals we have set require work without end, we mistreat ourselves as unlimited resources.

For the year to come, let us try to set ourselves reasonable tasks – and find ourselves bringing more than enough to them.

We must treat this world’s existence as limited in order to better find connections with the infinite.

I know I will be working on this for a long time!

Advertisements

Transformation all around, if only we would see it

15 Sep

Today for our daily Elul thought we look at Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11 – 34:35 – a lot happens here, not least of which is the Golden Calf incident.

I just had a random reason to glance at one particular verse from this parasha today:
Exouds 34:29 Now it was when Moshe came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of Testimony in Moshe’s hand, when he came down from the mountain – (now) Moshe did not know that the skin of his face was radiating because of his having-spoken with him…

Encounters with the mystery of the universe transform us, and often we don’t recognize the transformation ourselves.

Elul asks us to be open to our own growth – to be like Moses and absorb the changes. Reality is filled with the miraculous. When we notice it we can be transformed.

When someone asks about something, we may learn more than we teach.

Dress for spiritual success, judge not

13 Sep

Today for our daily Elul thought we look at T’tzaveh, Exodus 27:20 – 30:10 – more details about things for the Mishkan, or portable Temple, the special garb for the priesthood, offering ceremonies for the ordaining of priests and their regular duties, and the description of the altar.

We could sum it all up by saying notes on interior decorating and fashion.

We don’t like to think that we get judged on our spaces and our garb. Often we unfairly judge others based on their appearances.

Perhaps the Elul thought of the day on this is: let our work on our spaces and appearances be ours alone, and let us avoid judging what others do for themselves.

Dressing because we want to look good for the Universe seems OK, allowing ourselves to be judgmental about other people’s choices in this, less so.

Relationships first, attachment to details later

12 Sep

Today for our daily Elul thought we look at T’rumah, Exodus 25:1 – 27:19 – God’s instructions on donations and construction regarding the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, or portable Temple space, and all of the things that go in it.

In this list of directions, there remains plenty of room to improvise. While God gives Moses extensive details, there is no real blueprint. While the plan seems to be about creating a place for God, it may actually be about us coming together to create a project that allows us to find holiness as a community.

Our attachment to plans and details may get things done. Elul comes to ask us in preparation for the holiest season whether those plans bring us together for some greater purpose.

Perhaps the details arrived at through a thorough conversation may forge a new relationship. Elul reminds us that strong relationships may be more important than sticking to the details of our original plan.

Remembering 9/11 and Thinking About Elul

11 Sep

Today we look at Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 – 24:18 – lots of laws, the promise of a guardian that will go before the Israelites and vanquish our enemies as we enter the Land of Israel, and the call to approach Mount Sinai.

Of the many laws, here are two:
Exodus 23:4 When you encounter your enemy’s ox or his donkey straying, return it, return it to him.
5: When you see the donkey of one who hates you crouching under its burden, restrain from abandoning it to him – unbind, yes, unbind it together with him.

On this September 11 during Elul, the month leading up to our High Holy Days, we should remember our tragedy and be moved by it to approach our enemies and those who hate us with integrity and generosity.

Let us turn hatred and enmity into civility.

Look Before We Kvetch

8 Sep

Today we look at B’shalach, Exodus 13:17 – 17:16 – the Israelites leave Egypt, Pharaoh chases them, the Sea of Reeds splits, we celebrate our freedom en route to Mount Sinai, plus the beginning of Israelite kvetching (complaining), and manna, quail, and the Amalekites attack.

People complain, oy do we complain!

Even though we have received teachings about the resources we might find if we only would look more closely.

Let us rein in our complaints for Elul, and seek solutions before we even give voice to our kvetches.

Make the Present by Remembering the Past

7 Sep

Today we look at Bo, Exodus 10:1 – 13:16 – the conclusion of the plagues leading to the Israelites leaving Egypt and servitude.

The main theme of this parashah culminates in the practices of Passover, a holiday of remembrance. We remember in large part through dietary restrictions:

Exodus 13:6 For seven days you are to eat matzot [unleavened bread], and on the seventh day (there is): a pilgrimage-festival to Adonai.
7 Matzot are to be eaten for the seven days, nothing fermented is to be seen with you, no leaven is to be seen with you, throughout all your territory.
8 And you are to tell your child on that day, saying: It is because of what Adonai did for me, when I went out of Egypt.

This reminder of our identities as the descendants of the oppressed gets reinforced every year through a week-long change in what we eat.

Elul and the High Holy Days also ask us to remember – to remember our own actions and their impacts, to remember our obligations to ourselves and others, and to remember those who are no longer with us.

We may not always have a vivid physical reminder of the past, so we must find ways to have the past and its meaning live on through the changes we make in ourselves.