Love in Our Lives
For us as Jews, the end of summer can be characterized by one phrase: “love is in the air.” I heard from a number of you who celebrated Tu b’av, the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av a couple of weeks ago with a loved one. In shul we are reading and studying the book of Deuteronomy, which includes many statements regarding God’s love for Israel and the way in which Israel is commanded to love God. Finally, as summer wanes into fall we begin the Hebrew month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish year. This year Elul begins today!
Elul is meant to be a period of introspection, repentance, and forgiveness. It is also a time to renew our resolve. A long-held tradition understands the word “Elul” to be an acronym for, “Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li”, a verse from Song of Songs translated as “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”. Thus, the entire month of Elul is characterized by love and our attention to the people and relationships “beloved” to us.
Elul provides us with 29 days to contemplate and analyze the way in which we have lived in our relationships during the past year. How do we express our love for our partners, children, or parents? Do we listen empathically to our loved ones? Are we truly open and honest with them? Have we sought forgiveness for wrongs committed and resolved not to repeat them? The process of introspection and repentance that characterizes Elul, as well as the High Holydays, is not limited to our relationships with other people. We must also address our relationship with self. How do we view ourselves? Are we living according to our principles and values? Are we striving to reach our potential? We also consider our relationship with God. Where are we in our relationships with God? How are our prayer lives? These are the types of questions the month of Elul prompts us to ask. Living in authentic, full relationships embodying the verse from Song of Songs, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” requires us to answer these questions honestly.
Today we begin difficult work. However, engaging in the process of teshuvah allows us the opportunity to make our relationships more fruitful. As we all know, introspection is never easy, but without out it our relationships, and therefore our lives, stagnate. Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to engage in the work of Elul. Without it, we devalue our relationships and limit our potential for growth. As Maimonides stated, “love is the motive which gives all human action its true ethical and religious value.”
Rabbi Philip Ohriner
PS See below for a flyer regarding opportunities to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11