Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul, Week #1
With Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg and Emily Herzlin
Today is the first day of the month of Elul! Welcome to the first week of Being Enough: Practices for the Month of Elul. We are so grateful to practice with you as we prepare to greet the New Year. In this series we will share Week 1 thoughts by Rabbi G, Practices in Daily Life, and Meditation.
A few tips to keep in mind:
You don’t need to have any prior experience with Jewish learning, Jewish practice or meditation to participate
You don’t need to be Jewish to participate.
Try to set aside 5-10 minutes each day for the meditation. If you don’t get to the practice every day, that’s okay. You can always start again the next day.
Week One: Tekiyah - Waking Up to How I’ve Been
By Rabbi Rachel Goldenberg
As I stepped off my plane at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport this summer I was greeted by the chants of pro-democracy demonstrators streaming into the arrivals hall. “Democratya,” they chanted, over and over again. But what immediately caught my attention were the loud blasts of hundreds of vuvuzelas punctuating each chant:
Over the many months of resistance to the far-Right government’s efforts to destroy Israeli democracy, the vuvuzela has been a kind of a shofar. Its honking sound fills the air, calling on citizens to wake up and return their country to its foundational, liberal democratic values. Like the shofar blasts, the vuvuzelas are loud. They are unavoidable. And they can be uncomfortable to hear, like an alarm waking you up from a deep slumber.
The first step in the journey of teshuvah, individually and collectively, is waking up. Before I can come home to my deepest intentions for how I want to live and recognize the part I can contribute to making the world better, I have to wake up to the ways in which I have drifted away in the first place.
The shofar’s rough, elemental voice is the perfect spiritual tool, as it stirs us, discomfits us, calling us to examine how we may have strayed from what we most care about. If I don’t have the opportunity to hear a real shofar during this month of Elul, I can listen for the sound of the shofar in my heart, my mind, my life. I can practice paying close attention moment to moment, asking: Where does it hurt? Where is there distance? How have I been with myself and the people I love? Are there ways I have drifted away from what and who is most important to me?
Practice in Daily Life
During the day, take note of opportunities to hear your inner shofar, calling you to pause and awaken more deeply to what is happening in the moment. At mealtime, allow the experience to call you to fully notice the color, texture and flavor of your food. Take the opportunity to express gratitude, whether aloud or silently, for the nourishment it provides. At work or home, listen for the shofar-call of stress, pressure, or being rushed. This can be an opportunity to pause, breathe, take a moment to soften and release tension in the body. Appreciate the sense of renewal that even a 1-minute breathing break can bring to your day.
Start an Elul journal and give yourself time to reflect on your day each night before bed. Looking back at your day, ask yourself, “How have I been with myself?” “How have I been with the people I love?” “How have I been with the people with whom I work?” Note moments of connection and compassion. Also note moments where perhaps your best self did not shine as brightly as you would have wanted. Allow these moments to be shofar calls, waking you up to how you have been. Bring compassion to yourself for being what you are - a human being, imperfect, and containing hidden wisdom and valuable gifts that are uniquely yours.
This practice is about waking up, over and over again, and returning to the intention to be in the moment, with the breath or the body as an anchor. As you practice, you might want to think of that moment when the attention wanders as the shofar, waking you up and calling you back to the present moment. Take a moment to note where your attention has wandered, and then let a gentle, compassionate, inner shofar bring you back to your intention to simply be with the breath, noticing your experience from moment to moment.
Nigun Elul, a melody for the month of Elul (Nava Tehila)
This melody uses the verse from Song of Songs אני לדודי ודודי לי “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” The first letter of each word in this verse spells the word for this month: אלול , or “ELUL.” The journey of this month of Elul is one of coming close to our Beloved. We may understand this as coming close to the Divine, or coming close to our intention to manifest Divine qualities through our actions.