This weekend we hold our Welcome Back IJC service. We are blessed to kick off the new IJC season with a celebration of two wonderful events, the birth of Benny Rozas in June and the wedding of Alex Licht to Stefano D'Orilia in July.
This year we start our services in the middle of the traditional preparation period for the High Holidays - Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of At-one-ment. We are now in the month of Elul when it is traditional to blow the shofar every day. Some say it is to wake us up, to use the primordial sound of the shofar to shake us out of complacency, our comfort zone and to get us to take a new look at ourselves, who we are and what we do. Perhaps the sound of the shofar, created from an animal’s horn and sounded with our breath, is supposed to put us in touch with our world, with nature, or our own nature. What is our impact on those around us? On ourselves as individuals?
All of this is a prelude to the process of repentance that is meant to take place every day and also has a special home on the calendar during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. In Hebrew it is called teshuvah, turning around. The concept is centered on the idea that our lives are a trajectory. Unlike an arrow in mid-flight, we can change direction, choose a new path, make a course correction. We can look around us, look within and decide that there is a better way to do things. More than that, we can take the steps necessary to make those changes a reality. No one is going to be perfect. Judaism does not have saints. All our leaders, our stories, are about fallible people - real human beings who make mistakes and try to become better human beings. We will try and at times we will slip and fall, more or less dramatically. We will struggle. The question is: do we try? Do we stick with it?
How we blow the shofar during the month of Elul can be a model for us too. Whenever a person blows the shofar they make a sound as long as their breath lasts. Eventually, they run out of air and the sounds sputter away into silence. The next day, they do it again. Maybe, this time, the sound lasts longer, is clearer. In any event, they keep going, day in and day out for a month.
May the month of Elul bring each of us the possibilities of new beginnings and new directions. May we be open to them and take advantage of the opportunity of this season to make our lives, and ourselves better.
Shanah tovah - a sweet, healthy and blessed New Year.