Let Love Be the Guide — First Week of Elul

Preparing our Hearts and Souls for the New Year 5780 - Part One

Dear Friends,

Here we are standing at the threshold of the Hebrew month of Elul, which begins this Shabbat. Elul initiates our spiritual preparation for the New Year. It is time of reflection, realignment and visioning. Tradition teaches that during Elul the Infinite appears to us as the Beloved, calling us to return home to ourselves, to each other and to the Mystery of All Life. Know you are loved and valued, the Infinite calls, and let this awareness guide you as you reflect on this past year and let it steady you as you look toward what the New Year could bring.

We come to Elul 2019/5779 after a year filled with blessings and tragedies. It continues to be a time of great challenge for our country and the planet. As I stand on the edge of this month I can feel my heart raging with pain and sadness.

Elul reminds me that the anger and pain I feel arises from what I care about. I experience so much sadness because of all that I love. Turn toward the love that is underneath the pain, Elul calls. It won’t negate the tragedies, it won’t make the sadness disappear, rather it will provide a foundation upon which to stand. Walk in the ways of love, the Mystery calls, even as you weep, let love be the guide.

May Elul 5779 bring us clarity and strength. May it help us return to what is true and essential. May this season guide us into the New Year with dignity and grace. Together, may we walk in the ways of love.

During these next four weeks A Way In will offer teachings and spiritual practices to guide us through Elul and bring us to the shores of the New Year.

Elul Week One:

We begin the journey through Elul by asking ourselves:

What do we love and care about?

What is important to us?

What do we value?

Then, with kindness, we reflect on the ways our choices and actions this past year have aligned with these values and in what ways we have lost sight of what we love.

It is so important to explore these questions in ways that do not encourage guilt, shame or harsh judgment. Berating ourselves does not lead us to change. Exploring these questions with compassion will open us to love and gratitude and will help us see where and how we can make choices that will honor what we care about.

During this first week of Elul we take time to explore these questions through writing or quiet reflection. As we do, each time we notice guilt, shame or harsh judgments arise we meet these thoughts by repeating a call from the psalmist:

This I know, the Infinite Mystery is with me. Psalm 56:10

At the close of our reflection we offer gratitude for encounters and experiences of this past year and repeat the psalm verse: This I know, the Infinite Mystery is with me.

During the month of Elul, it is traditional to say Psalm 27 each day. Download a free PDF of the psalm in Hebrew with a translation by Rabbi Yael.

Listen to the recording of this week's Jewish Mindfulness Morning Meditation Sit.

— Rabbi Yael Levy
28 Av 5779