The Month Of Elul: A Time For Apologies

The New Year Is Here!

Are you spiritually prepared?

The month of Elul is not only about self-reflection and finding our inner-selves. It’s also about apologizing for every time we “missed the mark” this past year.

Apologizing can be hard. The more time that passes, the more difficult apologizing gets. We don’t want to bring up the past and open old wounds, I get it.

Have you considered that apologizing is empowering?

Growing up, I was taught that admitting when I’m wrong is an admirable thing. Swallowing your pride and being vulnerable with the truth is an admirable trait. Personally, I’m brutally honest (just ask my friends and family) and am the first to admit when I’m wrong and these are all values that are very important to me.

So why have I never given myself this courtesy?

I thought long and hard about everyone I’ve wronged and could have treated better, only to realize the biggest apology I owe is to Myself.

After a (few) long and painful meditation sessions I was prepared to get it all out… So here it is:

I’m sorry for mistreating you
For distrusting you
I questioned your ability and doubted your intelligence
And made you feel powerless.
I told you you were worthless for so long
You turned into nothingness


I’m sorry for starving you from light 
For so long
Now your heart is too dark
For your mind to wander
I turned your dreams into demons
And left your heart too barren
For any love to grow.


I’ve done nothing but wrong you
I made you feel small and weak
Convinced that you were incompetent
I’ve mutilated you
Enslaved you 
Denied you and
Cast you out from your people
I filled your soul with doubt
Bitterness and sadness


I’m sorry for making you believe you’re not strong enough to 
Weather the storm and
Work through all this pain I have caused you
I deemed you unworthy of anything good and
Made you think your life is not worth living
I know apologies will not heal these deep wounds
I’ve afflicted you.


It’s time to thank you.
Thank you for having the strength to still be here
For never giving up on me
I hope you can forgive me and 
We can fix things together.
I don’t know how I will ever repay you but 
I will spend the rest of my life trying

This being my first Elul, I had a lot of reflection to catch up on. It’s been an intense few weeks of attempting to revive my soul (and I’m happy to report that it’s working.) I thought I would have a lot to apologize for, but looking back I am proud of how I’ve handled confrontation, avoided drama and been honest with myself this past year and would not do anything differently.

I encourage you to also spend some time with yourself. What should you apologize for? Who has wronged you? What should you thank yourself for? Maybe even write yourself a letter too.

Stay soft,

Joey D.

Rosh Hashanah Greeting Card on RedBubble
Click the image or text for my Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Greeting Cards!

Rosh Hashanah Gifts Now Available!

The High Holy Days have inspired me to begin creating again.

Committing to observing Shabbat each week has been transformative for me and I am so lucky to be welcomed in to a vibrant community so easily. Singing psalms with cicadas under the sunset was the first spiritual experience I have ever felt. It was the first time I’ve felt my soul come alive in along time.

Since then, I’ve been preparing for the High Holy Days with music, art and learning Jewish history (including my own ancestry and what Judaism means to me.) I’ve found great purpose throughout the month of Elul. Daily Torah story and weekly trips to the synagogue have provided a structure I’ve needed for a long time.

I originally intended for this to be only be art for a simple greeting card, but my ambition got the best of me… Explore 50+ custom gifts, decor and accessories to prepare your home for Rosh Hashanah with on RedBubble!

Vegan-Kosher 1-pot Pulled Pork Recipe

I couldn’t find an quick and easy “pulled pork” jackfruit recipe online, so I made my own! I want to try this next in my slow-cooker for Shabbat… Is that “Kosher”?

Kosher, Vegan and can be made gluten-free

I wanted the cheapest vegan pulled pork in as few steps as possible. This is also a 1-pot recipe, so all you will need is a cutting board, knife, a sauce pan, spatula, and something to break apart the jackfruit.

The only things in here are jackfruit, onion, oil, spices and vegetable broth. If you’re in a pinch, water will do. That makes this less than 5 ingredients! 

All this food from the clearance bins was less than $6:

-$1.67 for jackfruit

-$1.99 for 2 heads of iceberg lettuce (of which I only needed 1/2 of 1)

-$1.49 for the buns (regular $2.99) In actuality those buns were in my freezer from last week, but I added its cost for posterity.

Ingredients:

The onion, leftover broth, and spices I already had at home, so you can round the total up to $6 if you like. I shop at dinner hour during the week, which is the best time to find half-off fruits, veggies and bread. The stuff that gets thrown away at the end of the night is sometimes even more than 50% (like the iceberg lettuce I got).

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil with spices and cook until brown (about 5 minutes)
  2. Add jackfruit and fill the pan with broth until the jackfruit is mostly submerged. 
  3. Cover the pan and let it simmer until the jackfruit is soft (for 10-15 minutes).
  4. Once the jackfruit is soft, add the barbecue sauce and cook until hot. 
  5. Put on a bun (or gluten-free alternative), top it with some crunchy lettuce and it’s ready to serve!

These with a side of coleslaw or potato salad, I see this being my favourite summer comfort food. This was my first attempt, so I’m looking forward to trying it again.

Next time I would like to make my own barbecue sauce, but I was being really lazy… If you tried making this yourself, let me know what you loved or may have done differently in the comments below!

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