At sundown tonight, not only will it be Shabbat, it will be Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first of the month of Elul.
Elul is the 12th month of the Jewish year – so yes, a month from now we will be celebrating Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.
Elul is a month of quiet preparation for the renewal of the High Holy Days. Traditionally, we take this time to “wake up our souls” with the sound of the shofar and with penitential prayers (selichot.)
It’s a time for cheshbon nefesh – taking an accounting of one’s life. In what ways have I fallen short in the last year? What regrets would I have, if I died tomorrow? What do I have to show for my one, precious, singular life?
Many Jews also take some time this month to visit the graves of loved ones. Going to a cemetery reminds us of our own mortality.
I’ll write more about these customs over the coming month. In the meantime, do you have plans for Elul? How do you go about your personal accounting?