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Friday, August 21, 2009

Steps to Tishrei

Today is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is basically a whole month spent preparing for one day. We blow the shofar and start reciting selichot (well, unless you're Ashkenazic or something). At dawn and at nightfall, we recite Psalm 27, which is both weirdly hopeful ("The L*rd is my light and my salvation") and weirdly catastrophic ("Do not hide Your face ... do not thrust [me] aside ... do not forsake me, do not abandon me," which was actually quoted in a They Might Be Giants song. Well, a really gloomy TMBG song).

In this morning's Simchat Shlomo email, Sholom Brodt talks about how Yom Kippur is all about fixing our external behavior, the things we do to other people -- "both knowingly and unknowingly," as we say about a zillion times over in the High Holiday liturgy. Elul, on the other hand, is about fixing our unconscious, and making ourselves good on the inside, in our thoughts. It's like taking the potential goodness or badness of everything you can do, and making sure it's aimed in the right direction -- so that, once Rosh Hashanah rolls around, we're ready to make it actual.

One more thing: The month of Elul is symbolized by the letter yud and the left hand -- which sounds cool, although I've never really understood where all these things come from. (According to Rav Sholom, it's from the Sefer Yetzirah ... although that still doesn't explain it.) He writes: "The letter yud is the smallest letter and it is also a part of every letter -- as soon as you put the quill to the parchment, you have already written a yud. So the yud represents the innermost point--your innermost point of being a "yid'."

That part, I do get. Just by existing, we're continuing to create.

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