The Month Of Elul: Rehearsing For A New Year

Feel free to download this and print it off as a colouring sheet!

The head of the year, Rosh Hashanah, is upon us.

“Shanah tovah um’tukah,” means “May you have a good and sweet new year.”

The King is in the field, and so, it is our time to speak with him.

Preparing for this Mitzvah requires an entire month. The month of Elul is all about introspection. We take the time to evaluate ourselves, to show G-d our best nature and prove why we deserve another year of this life—to continue to serve The King.

After Elul comes the two days of Rosh Hashanah. This is the time in which G-d decides our fate for the next coming year. Will it be “good and sweet”, or will it be our last?

How will you prepare for death?

An old Rabbi asked the class. He was sharing his hatred for Rosh Hashanah… and what the old Rabbi said made me fall in love with this Mitzvah.

To summarize, the pressure of the Lord’s judgement, he said, was terrifying to him. He asked his class, “How could I possibly be ready to answer to G-d? Have you cast none wrong? Of course no one is clean. So to this, I say, I will never be ready.”

You are judged in this life by more than just G-d. Society also judges us—not necessarily by the good we do in the world, but what we guilty for. We also judge ourselves: for those silent moments where we know we could have made a difference, but did nothing.

Your emotional baggage holds you back from more than just opportunities—it will hold you back from a peaceful death. And this is what Rosh Hashanah and the month of Elul are all about. I can say I was more than ready to “take stock of my soul” after this past year. What I need most right now is purpose and there could be no better opportunity than this Mitzvah.

But how do you “take stock” of your soul? What does that even mean?

While the sages provide no instruction past the Six Stages of T’shuvah, there are also fundamental mitzvot to guide us through this soul-searching.

Opening our hearts to forgiveness, preparing our souls for an intense 10 days of repentance and prayer, and giving tzedakah (to charity) are critical in preparation for the High Holy Days. As Sephardim, we even start reading Psalm 27 right on Rosh Chodesh: the first day of Elul, 40 days before Yom Kippur.

My tips for a successful Rosh Hashanah:
1. Spend the month of Elul in solitude. This really helped me attune to my inner-self and better articulate my needs, attitudes, ideologies, regrets, and hopes for the coming year.
2. Have your Machzor handy (or print out the selection of prayers for Rosh Hashanah if you don’t own the payer book)
3. Make a list for tashlich—things you wish to cast away “unto the waters” and never see again.
4. Create spiritual resolutions for the year. Prioritize things like sharing more time with family or becoming more vulnerable in your relationships—goals with deep meaning that will benefit your soul.
5. Give tzedakah (Donate to charity)—it’s Shmittah (Sabbatical) Year, so don’t be a cheapskate!
6. Plan your meals around synagogue—there is no more important time of year to show up for your community than the High Holy Days!
7. Pray to the graves of the righteous. Visit the graves of your beloved and Jewish memorials. I will visit at least one abandoned rural cemetery or prison cemetery to pray for those who have no one left to pray for them.
8. Send out greeting cards—it’s cliché, but for good reason!

There’s a lot you need to do to prepare for the perfect Rosh Hashanah. Having the potential to change your fate for the next year is a lot of pressure! You see why it takes an entire month for us to prepare?

You still have time to rehearse your new role in the world. What role will you play?

Do you deserve a good and sweet year?

Sources:
Chabad.org
MyJewishLearning.com
ReformJudaism.org

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