The Month of Elul – Implementing Change

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Three days ago, we entered into the month of Elul. For some people, this is just another month in the calendar. For other people the month of Elul evokes an inner shudder with the knowledge that the next month brings us to the high holy days and the days of judgement. To the days when G-d decides who shall live and who shall die. Pretty sobering.

I read the following today, which nicely summed up this month: 

The Jewish month of Elul, is considered the “month of empathy/mercy.” We need to have empathy for others, but must not ever forget to have empathy for ourselves as well. This is the month of spiritual and emotional preparation for the upcoming month of High Holidays, beginning with Rosh Hashana, the New Year. Wanting to change and implementing change can be quite different… 

I didn’t put anything else of this text, purposely leaving it as a cliff-hanger so to speak. 

In 2002, I bought a book called 60 Days, A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays by Simon Jacobson. The 60 days begins on Elul 1 and ends on Tishrei 30. Each day in the book is given its own page, history of what happened on that day during the time of our matriarchs and patriarchs, an insight, story and personal challenge. It is definitely food for thought. 

So, for example, today’s personal exercise is the following: Identify one area in your life where you badly need the objective guidance of Torah because you have not been able to make meaningful progress on your own. 

I’m pretty sure we can all identify with that line. Each of us has our own personal struggles and perhaps one which we have been dealing with for a very long time. I have my own, which shall remain with me. It gnaws at me all the time. I keep asking myself why I can’t seem to get a handle on it. 

Today’s entry, for Elul 3 says the following: Learning how to be free is what is called in the Torah ‘leaving Egypt’ – or mitzrayim. And what is mitzrayim? The obstacles we set up for ourselves, wittingly or unwittingly.

Along comes the month of Elul, one of G-d’s gifts, to help guide me. I have heard more than one time at farbrengens that one can be old at 22 years old and young at 66 years old. And what makes that happen? A person’s willingness to try to change their behavior, to try and move out of the mitzrayim they set up for themselves.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks had an audience with the Rebbe when he was very young. He began speaking with the following: “In the situation in which I find myself…”. The Rebbe looked at him and said, “Just as you put yourself in a situation, so to can you take yourself out of that situation.” How true and how hard.

Here’s the salvation: Remember the line above – Wanting to change and implementing change can be quite different…  Well, wanting something means that you are still in the game. That you don’t accept the situation in which you find yourself and do want to implement change. These days of Elul afford us the opportunity to effect a sliver of change in both the world and ourselves. Reach out and reach in.

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