Thursday, September 6, 2012

#BlogElul 19: Beginnings {Guest Post}

I decided that I would invite friends to do a "guest post" here on Ima on and off the Bima during BlogElul. There were quite a few motivations - 1) writing daily posts on two blogs - whew! 2) encouraging non-bloggers or new bloggers to "get out there" and just do it and 3) to hear from other people! So I hope you enjoy them - there are a number of guest posts coming up in the next two weeks! Yay!

Today's post comes from Rabbi Dan Plotkin. Dan is one of my oldest and dearest friends, we have known each other since we were babies! (We are also step-fourth-cousins-in-law or something like that. Aren't we all related!?) He is the director of education at a congregation in Columbia, MD. He is married to the wonderful Rachel and they have two adorable little boys. Welcome, Dan!

Elul is an end.  It is the end of the Jewish year, it is the end of the summer, it is the end of our sacred cycle of our holy days.  But if it were only an end, there would be little meaning to it.  The great meaning of this month and this season comes from the fact that it is time to prepare for a new beginning.  We take this time for Heshbon Nefesh, our self-accounting, but the purpose is not to simply wrap up last year in a pretty (or not so pretty) little bow as if it were our taxes or a annual family album.  The purpose of our Heshbon Nefesh is to prepare for our new beginning on Rosh HaShanah.  We consider ways to right those things in our life that are wrong and to build on all the good we have done.

The fall is often seen as a time of ending, especially for those of us in more northern climates.  But we see how many beginnings there are as well.   A new school year offers the promise of renewed learning for our children and hopefully for ourselves as well; a new football season gives us hope that maybe, just maybe this will be our team’s year (offer void in Minnesota); this new year for us as Jews allows us that same new beginning.  

Elul is a chance to prepare to begin again in all our relationships.  In our relationship with others, we can apologize for wrongs we have done and forgive those done to us (or even apologize for failing to forgive).  With those closest to us we have the opportunity to renew our commitment to those relationships and be the best spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend that we can be.  As we turn our thoughts toward the sacred meaning of the upcoming days, we can consider how to begin again with our relationship with God through finding mizvot that speak to our hearts and committing ourselves anew.

More than any other relationship, we can begin again with ourselves.  Self-forgiveness is often the toughest.  But as we begin a new cycle of our year we can let go of those self-resentments, the regrets for things done or for that which we did not do but should have done.  When we pledge ourselves to begin anew with our own actions and attitudes that is something over which we can be in full control.  We can say no to the negative habits of the past and embrace positive patterns and habits moving forward.

Elul is our time to be ready for a new beginning.  It is an amazing gift from God that this new beginning comes to us each year.  May each of us use this gift to its fullest potential so that all of our new beginnings will lead to amazing ends.

The Jewish month of Elul, which precedes the High Holy Days, is traditionally a time of renewal and reflection. It offers a chance for spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe. It is traditional to begin one’s preparation for the High Holy Days during this month with the Selichot, the prayers of forgiveness. We look to begin the year with a clean slate, starting anew, refreshed. All month, along with others, I'll be blogging a thought or two for each day to help with the month of preparation... I will be blogging here, and sharing #Elulgram photos on the same themes at Follow me on twitter @imabima for all the #BlogElul posts, not only mine but others' as well! 

Leave your blog Elul post in the linky below!

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