Recalibrating in the month of Elul

August 21, 2020

Full disclosure: I am a planner. I like (and take pride in) looking down the road to see what’s coming next. Similarly, I do not like surprises. Surprises leave me with a sense of unpreparedness and vulnerability that I do not enjoy. In fact, one of my all-time favorite quotes is Abraham Lincoln’s, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” But COVID-19 and our inability to look far enough into the horizon to steer clear of potential hazards is a challenge like none experienced before.

Today, however, is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Although this month carries no significant biblical recognition, there are a number of customs and rituals that have developed over the centuries unique to this month. Because this month precedes the Jewish High Holy Days it has become traditional to recognize this as a month to look forward and back — to re-calibrate one’s position in order to enter the “Days of Awe” (the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) knowing where we are both physically and spiritually. It is this rebalancing of our understandings and expectations that sets us up to successfully begin the planning process anew.

Elul is also recognized as the month that highlights the loving relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. Elul is written in Hebrew with the letters aleph-lamed-vav-lamed, which is also the acronym attributed to the biblical phrase “ani ldodi vdodi li” (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”), found in Song of Songs 6:3.

It is because of this reference that Elul is additionally recognized as the month dedicated to rebuilding relationships. We blow the shofar each morning (aside from Shabbat) to awaken our soul, to set us on the path each morning to “right our wrongs”. Who have we treated poorly this year whom we can reach out to and try and repair the relationship? Who have we ignored, to whom we should now give our attention?

This Elul-mindset provides me with the confidence to know that the Jewish community of San Antonio will come out of this pandemic more unified and with a common understanding that we are stronger together.

As the Jewish Federation embarks on our 2020 Annual Campaign to raise the critical funds to support our local Jewish agencies, as well as the most vulnerable in Israel and in other diaspora Jewish communities across the world, the way we will succeed is through our partnerships with you and through your generosity and philanthropic support.

And so, as we plan for the coming month, as we plan for repairing any broken relationships, or for improving the ones that have room to be improved, let me be the first to say, if we at the Jewish Federation have missed the mark on meeting your expectations, or if we inadvertently ignored your feedback, made you feel dismissed in any way, or simply left you with a taste that was anything other than the sweetness of honey, we sincerely apologize. This is our opportunity to recalibrate also. So, please reach out and let us know how we can serve you better. The Jewish Federation of San Antonio is:

Here for you.

Here for our community.

Here for our future.

Shabbat shalom and hodesh Elul sameach (happy month of Elul)!