Elul – Finding Balance During a Month of Reflection

During Elul, the last month of the Hebrew calendar, Jews around the world often reflect on their relationships and connections with family, friends, community, and faith as they prepare themselves for the High Holy Days to come. We can think of Elul as a “practice test” for the High Holy Days — a month to consider and acknowledge the parts of our life that could use fine-tuning.

The pandemic that enveloped our world during the second half of 5780 has left many of us feeling unmoored. Very quickly — and not of our own volition — we had to change the way we learned, worked, shopped, interacted, and worshipped. It’s been a stressful time, and we have not always been as kind to ourselves as we should have been.

Repentance and Repair are vital aspects of the High Holy Days, and we want to help you embrace this year’s Days of Awe from a strong foundation rooted in self-care to make the holiest time of the year as nourishing as possible for you and those whom you love. Elul is dedicated to soul-reckoning. But self-care takes all of our being into account — the good and the bad — and it is important to also recognize our accomplishments and our growth as human beings during this introspective month.

Consider the good and the bad.

Before Elul begins at sundown on Thursday, August 20, create a list of 29 qualities (one for every day of Elul). Fifteen should be positive traits you’d like to embody, such as kindness or patience; 14 should be negative ones you hope to avoid (i.e. selfishness, apathy). Each day, pick a quality and reflect upon it. When and how did you see that quality in yourself during the past year. What triggered it? What can you do in the future to recognize when it appears? How can you embrace this quality in the future, or what steps can you take to do better?

Make time for introspection.

While community is incredibly important in Judaism, it is equally important to dedicate time for the “self” part of self-care. Set time aside specifically for you, and you alone. Take time to read, to walk in the woods, to pray, and to meditate. Perform acts that bring you closer to a sense of peace, for it is only through being good and kind to ourselves can we have the strength to nourish others.

Remember that you’re worth it.

Above all else, remember that you are worth taking this journey. The point of the High Holy Days is to affirm that we are worthy to walk this path, that our flaws are simply areas of our life that require our focus and care. This beautiful task that Jews have taken on every New Year for centuries is ancient and rooted in tradition, and at the same time, each journey is unique for every individual.

Regardless of your missed marks, you are special and worth every minute of this journey through these Days of Awe.