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The Elul Project Reflections

For the entire month before the High Holydays, join in communal reflection on the themes of the High Holydays. Create new interpretations, memories, and connections to echo inside you when you hear the words in this year’s High Holydays. This Hebrew month is called Elul. The Elul Project.

 

Please contribute your own words, photographs, or original artwork to this project through September 26. We will fill icon_elul1the back wall of the sanctuary with a new art installation made by our community.

 

During the Hebrew month of Elul, Jews around the world prepare for the Jewish new year. Every day, we offer an invitation for reflection through one of the main themes of Rosh Hashanah.

This week’s theme: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts).

28 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

 

What will you face in the new year?


27 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

Feel my pain and see my trouble.

Forgive all my sins. (Psalm 25:18)
Has it been a particularly difficult year? What will you do to repair the difficulty of last year?


26 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

Adonai came down in the cloud and stood with him [Moshe] there, and called out the name of Adonai. Adonai passed before him, and called, “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and full of lovingkindness and faithfulness, who shows lovingkindness to the thousandth generation, who forgives errors and hurtful things and wrongdoing, but who will not forgive the guilty…” (Exodus 34:5-7)
What is the name of who you are, or who you aspire to be?


25 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

“Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.” (2 Chronicles 7:15)
What will you do to hear your friend?


24 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil which we did to him.”

So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, Forgive, I pray you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, we pray you, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. (Genesis 50:15-17)

What story do you need to hear in order to release the past?


23 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” – Emo Philips
When are you inclined to take and then ask forgiveness?


22 Elul: Forgiveness and Acceptance

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

What will you shed light on today?


21 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Imagining What Is Possible

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (Emma Lazarus)

In the call of the shofar, we hear the echo of every impossibility made possible. In the new year, what will you believe is possible?


20 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Yearning

From the depths have I called You, O Eternal.

Adonai, hear my voice….

In You I place my hope,

With every breath I place my hope in You,

And for Your word I yearn.

My every breath awaits You,

More than watchmen wait for the dawn —

Yes, more than watchmen yearn for dawn. (Psalm 130:1-2, 5-6)
For what do you yearn? What steps will you take this year to make it possible?


19 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Renewal

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

“ Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gives life to the dead.” (Amidah liturgy)
Through what process will you renew yourself in preparation for the coming Jewish year?


18 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as ReCreation

In the High Holyday liturgy, we read, Hayom harat olam – “Today is the conception of the world,” or, “Today is pregnant with eternity.”
In the sound of the shofar, what infinite creativity do you hear? What ideas are forming within you, what potential is building? In this new year, what will you give voice to?


17 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Power to the People

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” (Thomas Jefferson)


16 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Hearing Clearly

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
What are you doing to raise knowledge in the world?


15 Elul: Shofarot (Shofar Blasts) as Call to Action

Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!

Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,

Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,

Into the school where the scholar is studying,

Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,

Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,

So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow. (Read the full text of Walt Whitman’s poem here.)

 

What must you do? Who are you called to be?

What do you hear in the profound silence of stillness? When you hear clearly inside yourself, what is true?


14 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Time to Remember

“Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” – Oscar Wilde
What memory will you write from this past year? What memory will you take the time to shape and hold, to carry firmly into the new year?


13 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as People We Love

“To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” – Susan Sontag
Who are you remembering this time of year? Who have you recently said Kaddish for? Please bring in a photograph or story about this person.


12 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Individuality

“A human being mints many coins from the same mold, and they are all identical. But the Holy One, Blessed be God, strikes us all from the mold of the first human, and each one of us is unique.” (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 4:5)

Who are you remembering this time of year? Share a small part of this person’s individuality: please bring in a photograph or story about this person.


11 Elul:  Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Tradition

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

What special custom, what way of celebrating, from your family do you give to the next generation?


10 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Burden

It is not an enemy who taunts me—

   then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—

   then I could hide from him.

But it is you, my equal,

   my companion, my familiar friend. (Psalm 55:12-13)

What past choices – made by you, made by others – continue to impact you?


9 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Blessing

Now Adonai said to Avram, “Go from your country and your birthplace and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and through you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

 

What is the blessing – the wish, the hope – you hold for your family members as they walk through the world?


8 Elul: Zikhronot (Remembrance) as Inherited Responsibility

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).”

What legacy do you hold through previous generations of your family? What obligations have you inherited from them?


7 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Compassionate Power

For if you were to keep track of all misdeeds, oh God, who could breathe?” (Psalm 130:3)

What is it time to let go of? What will you forgive in others, in yourself?


6 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Vulnerability

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” — Madeleine L’Engle

“A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.” — Ian McEwan (Atonement)

How have you protected yourself this past year? How have you opened yourself to genuine encounter?


5 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Human Limitation

לא עליך המלאכה לגמור ולא אתה בן חורין להבטל ממנה

Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorin l’hibatel mimena – He used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free from doing all you can to complete it (Pirkei Avot 2:21)
How do you balance your drive to achieve with your human limitations? What gives you strength to approach your work, day after day?


4 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Control

“If you can’t control your peanut butter, you can’t expect to control your life.”

Bill Watterson, The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

What are the limits of your agency and control? What do you attempt to control too tightly?


3 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Awe

“In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.” – John Muir (1938)

When did you experience awe this year? What provoked your awareness of awe, i.e., what made you notice the feeling?


2 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Power

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

How do you exercise power? When do you exercise power over others? through others?


1 Elul: Malchuyot (Kingship) as Obligation

“Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty.” John D. Rockefeller

What obligations have you taken upon yourself? What obligations have others placed upon you?

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