Elul, A Journey of Preparation
As a non congregational rabbi, some might think that preparing for the High Holy Days would be easier for me. I don’t have sermons to write, services to prepare, logistics to oversee. That is relatively true. My work slows down this month as my rabbinic, educational and cantorial colleagues put their minds toward Tishri.
As the wife of a rabbi, my preparation work in Elul is usually focused outward.
- Making space for my husband to do his work
- Preparing comfort food and making sure his favorite late night snacks are on hand
- Covering perhaps some additional portions of child-schlepping
- Channeling my own stores of patience and compassion. He will be very busy, pre-occupied and focused on the needs of his congregation at this time. Now is not the time to ask for new projects to be completed around the house. (Unless of course, he is the mood to procrastinate or needs a break)
In all reality, taking the month of Elul to prepare for the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) is challenging for everyone. It is supposed to be. Each morning the shofar calls us to begin our heshbon hanefesh (spiritual accounting). We begin a marathon period of self-reflection, doing the hard work of t’shuvah (repentance), and re-booting for the coming year.
It is hard to do this work on your own. In the past I have considered using a guide to help me with this work. A quick check on Amazon elicited several “preparing for the high holy days” books.
Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days by Dr. Kerry M. Olitsky
This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Rabbi Alan Lew, z’l
60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays by Simon Jacobson
Whether it is with one of these books, or with my own process of reflecting, I am going to try this month to really do the work of preparation that Elul calls upon. It will be hard. It will take commitment and stamina. Ultimately, I hope it will enrich my High Holy Day experience and lead to my own personal growth.
May this Elul be one of meaning and introspection for us all.