We have now entered the month of Elul in the Hebrew calendar. It is a time of preparing for our Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
This is the time of teshuvah, turning, changing, re-evaluating the choices we have made during the past year. We are asked to examine the road we are presently on in our lives.
This month of soul-searching begins with an alarm call. The mighty blasts of the shofar/ram’s horn tell us: Wake up! Wake up from your sleepwalking, your robot-like life.
Starting 30 days before Rosh Hashanah, the command of the shofar cuts through the habit and routine that clouds the brain. It brings the clarity of vision we need in order to judge our lives.
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Silence. The great 19th century sage, Rabbi Israel Salanter, undertook a 40-day silent vigil each year from the first day of Elul until Yom Kippur.
For him, much of what passes for conversation seemed like a smoke screen that we put up in order to avoid actually encountering others — or ourselves. Fresh insights and new self understanding open up for us once silence breaks the grip of routine that keeps us from thinking during most of the year.
Of course, 40 days without so much as a how-do-you-do is a lot to ask of ourselves. But in an age when talk is so plentiful and drivel fills the airwaves and the cocktail party and the supermarket and every other place we go, a short stretch of pure silence can be very healing. When words are spoken again after a time-out of genuine silence, they come out cleaner and they are more resonant.
In his epitaph, Benjamin Franklin wrote that he hoped “to appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the Author.” The meaning of the High Holy Days is that the Jew strives to come out in a new and more refined edition every year, and not just after this life.
NOTE: The High Holy Days at Temple Beth El are open to the entire community. Our services are free of charge.
Rosh Hashanah is Sept. 8-9. Yom Kippur is Sept. 17-18. All are welcome. The temple office will be happy to provide additional information.
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900 or visit ww.templebethelbradenton.com.