Wake up you sleepers from your sleep and you slumberers from your slumber. Search your deeds and return in penitence. -- Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4)
We’ve entered the month of Elul. A time of reflection and preparation. The High Holy Days are coming. Will you be ready?! Now is the time to start thinking back over the past year. Have you grown? Have you changed? Are you who you imagined you’d be when Rosh Hashana came a year ago?
Each morning during the month of Elul, the shofar blast reminds us to wake up and turn. But, just as God doesn’t want an empty fast - one where we simply go through the motions without any intention of change or purpose - the month of Elul reminds us that the Days of Awe are not the only important days in the year. The daily shofar blast and the reflective nature of the month leading up to the High Holy Days remind us that each day is an opportunity, a chance to right a wrong, to learn something new, to get a little better. Each day we have the chance to forgive just as we may ask forgiveness.
During the Ne’ilah service, as the sun sets at the end of Yom Kippur, we will say that the Gates of Atonement are closing. The final shofar blast will alert us to the end of the Days of Awe. But the Gates are never truly closed to those who turn. There is no deadline for teshuvah, no time limit on personal growth and repair. Teshuvah can be an every day journey. We do not need to wait. Every day we can get a little closer to our best self. That doesn’t happen over night. It won’t happen in ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It won’t even happen in the 29 days of Elul. Growing, changing, turning is a lifetime activity. And it can start any day. Perhaps today.
The shofar has sounded; its loud blast a reminder that Elul is here. This is a time to turn. Reach out. Look in. Open your hearts, close old wounds.
Rabbi Rochelle Tulik