Elul: The Work Ahead
OpinionClosing Thoughts

Elul: The Work Ahead

On Shabbat and festivals, we refrain from work. During Elul we're required to do the work necessary to return to our highest selves.

Dr. Terry Segal is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with a Ph.D. in Energy Medicine. She is the author of "The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key That Unlocks You.”

Elul is a time for mindfulness.
Elul is a time for mindfulness.

Rosh Chodesh Elul began at sunset on Sat., Aug. 11, but the work of Elul continues. It occurred on the solar eclipse at sunset, the third and final eclipse of the season. Each new moon is an opportunity for beginnings, but those that occur during the twice-yearly eclipse seasons receive an extra boost. This one has been about powerfully manifesting your dreams and releasing what no longer serves you.

Elul is the month in which the “King is in the field,” walking among us, closer than at any other time during the year. Hashem is more accessible, witnessing our cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul, and present to our individual pleas in a way that can feel more like conversation than prayer.

The modern egalitarian view of Hashem doesn’t reference a gender. Hashem can be envisioned as a warm, glowing orb of light. The awesomeness of it is as if the sun, itself, floated down from the sky to appear right in front of us.

During Elul, we can stand in the power of this Divine energy and imagine it being accessible to everyone. We have the chance to glimpse our highest potential, as an overlay on our current selves, which is flawed and imperfect. Imagine that we reconnect to Hashem’s light, recharge our tired spirits, and refresh our dedication to what matters. We are on the verge of a great opportunity to transform ourselves.

We have this chance to reconnect with Divine Source and practice, with our loving G-d, putting our changes into action. We ask for forgiveness in very specific ways. We don’t just say, “Please forgive me for whatever I’ve done wrong.” There’s a list, a detailed list, of ways in which we may have missed the mark. After we flesh them out and have asked for G-d’s forgiveness, then we can develop the courage to go to one another and ask for forgiveness. Much harder a task.

On Shabbat and festivals, we cease from working. During Elul, however, we’re required to do the necessary work to turn from the ways in which we’ve deviated from actualizing our highest selves. We focus on teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah. Teshuvah is more than repentance. It’s turning away from negative choices and returning to our inner spark of goodness. Tefillah, beyond prayer, reconnects us to G-d. Tzedakah, rather than charity, is an obligation to give to others.

In further exploring the reason that Hashem meets us in the field, as opposed to a city, a palace, a desert, or a Chinese food restaurant, in a field, things are tended to and grow. It makes sense to plant the seeds of manifestation there.

During this time, G-d’s 13 attributes are highlighted. One view offers that we not think of these attributes as “middot” because they are G-d’s qualities. Instead, “derachim” refers to the ways of G-d and how the universe is governed.

When it’s Shabbat, there are 39 types of creative acts that we’re not supposed to perform. Listing them makes us mindful to stay on track. The Viduy (confessional prayers) is our list of the ways in which we commit transgressions. Often, there is more than a single action involved. It’s common for people to say, regarding a transgression, “Oh, it just happened.”

In reality, we usually have several opportunities to step away from the transgression, and back onto the path, before committing it. Sometimes, though, the learning comes after the fact. The accounting of our souls occurs within us when we own our actions. Next, we approach G-d. Elul’s Hebrew letter is yud, the smallest letter of the alef-bet. We are like the yud in the presence of Hashem.

Finally, we say we’re sorry to others. While G-d grants us a chance to change, people don’t always offer forgiveness. Some damage is irreparable.

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