I was in synagogue recently and inserted into the service was the special blessing for the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the last month of the Hebrew calendar which means it's only a matter of another lunar cycle before we kick off the Jewish New Year with Rosh Hashanah and deny ourselves 25 hours' worth of food and drink on Yom Kippur. It is the Jewish New Year 5773, which means there is a new hope for the days ahead. It's a time of teshuvah which means repentance, but it also means a return.
As I wander through my day to day life over the course of the year, I constantly feel like I am pulled in so many different directions. Everyone and everything demands my attention. Someone on Facebook, wants me to friend them. Someone on Twitter needs me to follow them. My email box is littered with requests for my time, energy and resources. Yet during the High Holidays I can tap into my moral compass and return to a truer path for me. It's a comforting feeling to know that every year I can designate this time of year to really find my way in the world again.
Repentance could happen any time, but the idea of teshuvah during Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur always happening at the same time on the calendar each year is all the more meaningful to me. This is the time of year where I get to take stock about how I have spent my time. It's also where I get to explore and hopefully make some decisions about how I want to spend my time in the year to come.
This year I hope to spend the most time on that one thing that will keep me grounded throughout the year. You know when you look at the end of a pen really intensely, so much so that the pen comes into focus extra clearly and the rest of the world gets blurry all around it. I want to be able to focus in on that one thing just like that. I can't say exactly what that thing is going to be, but I've got a week and 10 days of repentance to figure it out.
Teshuvah is tough stuff. The return is never easy. If it was supposed to be easy, God would have tweeted the 10 Commandments and called it a religion. We all know that the Judaism that calls millions of Jews to return to services every year at this time brings far more meaning than anything that can be expressed in 140 characters or less.
Shana Tova U'metukah - May you have a wonderful and sweet New Year!