Looking to Elul

After Rosh Chodesh Elul (August 21st), we read Psalm 27 twice a day at Shacharit and Mincha (the morning and afternoon prayer service). This causes us to begin preparing our hearts and minds with an attitude of repentance as we head toward the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashannah, and Yom Kippur.

In Ps. 27, David begins,

Adonai is my light and my salvation: whom should I fear? Adonai is the stronghold of my life: whom should I dread?”

While this is a positive affirmation, later he cries,

“To You my heart says: “Seek My face.” Your face, Adonai, I seek. Do not hide Your face from me. Do not turn Your servant away in anger. You have been my help. Do not abandon me or forsake me, O God my salvation” (v. 8-9).

It appears, that like many of us, David knew that HaShem was the source and anchor of his salvation, but at the same time, he had at least a shadow of a doubt that Adonai would actually be there for him. Maybe his felt his transgressions were just too great or too abhorrent. However, by the end of the psalm, he had refocused his heart and eyes onto HaShem and confidently proclaimed,

“Surely I trust that I will see the goodness of Adonai in the land of the living. Wait for Adonai. Be strong, let Your heart take courage, and wait for Adonai” (v. 13-14).

Years later, even as Jerusalem and Judah were preparing to fall to foreign rule due to their disobedience, the prophet Jeremiah wrote these words from the Ruach, to give hope to the people, then and now. He said with assurance,

“Return, backsliding children! I will heal your backsliding” (Jeremiah 3:22).

As we begin the countdown to the Days of Awe, we are refocusing our hearts and eyes on repentance and restoration—not only between ourselves and God, but also between ourselves and others. Remember Yeshua’s words to his talmidim (disciples):

“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).

To this day, in Judaism one does not expect HaShem to accept our repentance if we remain at odds with others. During the month of Elul, we can begin to refocus our lives in the direction that HaShem wants us to go. We have the opportunity to restore broken or strained relationships with family and friends.

I recently saw a copy of a 1918 advertisement from the New York Telephone Company which appeared during the Spanish Flu pandemic. What struck me was the line, “People who are in quarantine are not isolated if they have a Bell Telephone.” I suggest that the same concept is valid today. We are separated from family and friends by the pandemic, by miles, and often by multiple time zones. But we are only a phone call or some other digital form of communication away from one another. During the coming month of Elul, let’s rebuild bridges that have fallen into disrepair. Let’s turn back and make the initial contact to restore those relationships that have been stretched or even broken. Then we can approach the Days of Awe in confidence, knowing that our prayers will be answered because we have done what we could to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters as well as with our God.

This article was written by MJTI Registrar Rabbi Michael Hillel. For more by Rabbi Hillel, read his article on caution vs. fear, his thoughts on celebrating a virtual Shavuot, or continuing the count of the Omer.

Explore our blog:

A Plea for Humanity

The war in Ukraine has reached the two month mark. Rabbi Klayman reflects on the reasons why we must not let it become the “new normal.”

When Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place…

It is incredible how quickly we can go from the mountaintop of joy to the swampy marshland of depression! At such times we must step out in faith, trusting that HaShem will honor his word, his promise.

A Reflection on Divine Authority

On the one hand, knowing that we have a faithful God is incredibly reassuring! On the other hand, accepting His authority over our lives is incredibly difficult. Rabbi Michael Hillel shares his insights from a recent Bible study on Luke 20:1-8 and how Yeshua’s authority manifests across several Biblical narratives.

The Story Behind the Posner Menorah

You may have seen the iconic photo of a Hanukkah menorah defiantly in the window across from a Nazi flag. For the Hanukkah edition of This Month in Jewish History, Dr. Stan Meyer shares the story behind the photo and how it still touches our lives today.

Light Over Might

Hanukkah is about fighting for political autonomy and religious freedom… right? With our contemporary values, it can actually be difficult to examine the Hanukkah narrative to understand some of the more challenging elements. Rabbi Paul Saal takes a look.

Vayeshev: The Winding Road to Messiah

There are many injustices in the story of Joseph, from his father’s favoritism provoking his brothers’ violent jealousy to the cupbearer forgetting Joseph in prison. How are we supposed to feel in the face of disappointment? Rabbi Elliot Klayman breaks down this week’s parasha.

Favor Elevates Its Giver

After the drama of Jacob stealing Esau’s birthright and blessing—and then absconding to Paddan-aram for 20 years—this week’s parasha sees Jacob having to reunite with his estranged brother. What can this surprising moment of reconciliation show us about our relationships today?

Vayeitzei: The Continuing Journey

The patriarchal narrative continues in this week’s parasha, Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10 – 32:3). We find Jacob on his way tp Haran, seemingly in an attempt to get away from his justifiably-angry elder twin brother Esau, after Jacob had stolen Esau's blessing from their...

Sholem Asch: Introducing Jews to the Rabbi from Nazareth

November, 1880: Sholem Asch, the Jewish author, was born. Dr. Stan Meyer takes a look at his life and the impact he still has on our world today.

The Path Behind and the Road Ahead: A New Journey

The High Holidays are behind us for another year. We have travelled God’s way in those marathon weeks, and it may be tempting for us to settle back into a comfortable, mindless rhythm until Chanukah starts at the end of November. However, from shofar blowing and...

Pin It on Pinterest