The month of Elul is traditionally a time of introspection called cheshbon hanefesh “an accounting of the soul.” During this month we prepare ourselves spiritually for the upcoming ‘High Holidays’ of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) through prayer and soul-searching.
The shofar (ram’s horn) is blown daily to help us realize that it is time for T’shuvah, which is usually translated as repentance— but can also mean ‘turn’ or ‘return’. Part of our Elul journey involves turning to look behind at where we’ve been so we can honestly evaluate our actions over the past year, and returning to God and to the best possible versions of ourselves.
For those who are interested, I’d like to share two of the spiritual practices I’m doing during Elul this year. The first is The Shofar Project, a new program open to people of all backgrounds who want to make this a year of continued awakening, responsiveness, renewal, and transformation. A free four-week online program from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and its partner organizations, The Shofar Project offers a weekly theme focusing on different aspects of awakening and renewal, and Torah study, yoga sessions, and a daily community meditation ‘sits’ with leading instructors from the Jewish mindfulness and meditation community.
The second practice is one I look forward to every year: Jewels of Elul. Each year 29 ‘jewels’ are selected from an eclectic group of people, and one is sent every day during the month of Elul to those who request them. Previous years’ contributors include President Barack Obama, Desmond Tutu, the Dali Lama, Eli Wiesel, Deepak Chopra, Pastor Rick Warren, Kirk Douglas, Rabbi David Wolpe, Ruth Messinger, and over 100 other inspired voices. This year will feature jewels by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, Marcia Falk, Mitch Albom, Norman Lear, and Rick Lupert— and I am deeply honored to have one of my pieces, Crossroads, included as a ‘jewel’ this year.
As always, you are welcome to share (with attribution).