This Sunday begins the month of Elul – twenty-nine days leading up to Rosh Hashana and the period of our most intense introspection and reflection.
That period of time can be most productive, spiritually speaking, when we build up towards it. Similar to a distance runner, we cannot start cold and hope to succeed. We need to warm up and to work up towards it.
As in previous years, I’ve planned several programs for you to have a fruitful month of Elul. I want to share the those programs here so you can plan ahead.
One of the books that I read this summer was Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice by Martha Nussbaum, who teaches at the University of Chicago. I found it to be quite enlightening in its careful analysis of the uses, limits and appropriateness of anger as a psychological and moral tool in the search for justice in our personal lives, our communal lives and our political and national lives.
The book will form the basis of my teaching and exploration from the first of Elul through my D’var Torah on Rosh Hashana.
I’ve planned out four blog posts for the month, each focusing on a different key concept from the book: anger, transition anger, transactional forgiveness, and unconditional forgiveness. I’ll share what Prof. Nussbaum articulates about each along with some personal thoughts.
We’ll meet on Shabbat twice during Elul – once for dessert (Sept. 6) and once on Shabbat morning (Sept. 14). At the Friday night gathering we’ll discuss what I’ve written about anger and (her own term) transition anger. On the 14th we’ll take up what I’ve written about transactional forgiveness and unconditional forgiveness. It will not be necessary to have read the posts to participate and learn.
Selichot (Sept 21, evening)
Our annual Selichot program will be hosted by Sue Cohn and Scott Weinstein. Over a potluck dessert we’ll have a chance to go more deeply into these same issues, bringing them into dialogue with Jewish texts on the same issues. We’ll then have the opportunity to celebrate our Havdala and Selichot services (buy your prayerbook now; if you prefer there is an e-version) with a campfire on the beach at their home.
Rosh Hashana Morning D’var Torah
Finally, I intend to bring together what we have learned and discussed throughout the month with my D’var Torah on Rosh Hashana morning. In this way, everyone will have had a hand in writing the D’var Torah and contributing to the growth of members of our community.
The same people who brought us the mahzor that we now use for the holidays have also published a new prayerbook for Selichot. It is filled both with traditional prayers of Selichot along with beautiful contemporary writings and poetry, much like our mahzor.
We’ll use the book on the 21st. Please purchase yours now and bring it with you that evening. It’s available only in hard copy now for $16.