Elul: Prepare Spiritually for the Year
By Rabbi David Jaffe
Mussar master, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe (d.2005), taught that one of the most important things we can do for our spiritual lives is to give ourselves some time each day alone in contemplation. All the more so in our month of Elul, moments of quiet contemplation are essential. Many of us are and will be active on local and national electoral campaigns for the coming months. There is so much noise all around us and it will only get louder with each day up until November 3rd and beyond. Often, we will be the ones making the noise, advocating for this or that candidate, as well we need to. And, at the same time, our inner lives thrive on silence. Right in the middle of this election season comes Elul and the High Holidays. At first glance it may seem highly inconvenient to have these days of introspection come right when we need to be most vocal and “out there.” Actually, the quiet contemplation demanded by this season is essential to finding our authentic voice that enables us to speak powerfully from the heart.
The shofar is the primary symbol of this season. Starting today, it is blown every morning until the day before Rosh Hashana and then again on the holiday. In explaining the verse, “Raise your voice like a Shofar” (Isaiah 58:1) Rabbi Avraham Chaim of Zlatchov (d. 1816) explains that when we think, speak and act we are doing so with divinely gifted power. On a deep level, we are not originating action, but channeling it. He writes:
When you pray, you must realize that the Universe of Speech is speaking through you. When you think, you must realize that your thoughts are from the Universe of Thought. You are therefore like a Shofar. A Shofar itself does not contain any sound. It only produces sound when someone blows through it. It is therefore written, “Raise your voice like a Shofar.”
To be like a Shofar is to listen deeply to the world around us and to the still, small voice inside and let out a cry that channels these voices. To be able to do this kind of clearing out, listening and crying is an Avodah/a spiritual practice. We can make ourselves into a vessel, like Shofar, that can channel sound that pierces the heavens. But this takes slowing down, deep listening and arranging our words from the heart. Imagine bringing this type of deep speech into your campaign work this season! This is the work of Elul and the High Holidays and especially THESE High Holidays. I invite you to join me and the wider IOWA community in making ourselves into Shofars at this year’s Teshuva Workshop, designed to help you create your own personal spiritual action plan. Our authentic cry from the heart is needed now more than ever.
This year's Teshuva Workshop will take place over two sessions:
September 16th + 23rd, from 7-9pm EST