“Joyous are the people who experience the calling of the shofar; O LORD, they walk by the light of Your presence” (Psalm 89:16).
We begin this week the Hebrew month of Elul-the last month of the Jewish year and the one immediately preceding Tishrei, the month in which we observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. For those of you keen on sports metaphors, we are beginning the fourth quarter and the game is tied; the ball is in our hands. Or, alternatively, it is the bottom of the ninth; the bases are loaded, there are two outs, and we are up to bat. We could go on and on with the metaphors, but the bottom line is this: these are the final days in which we might recognize the ways in which we have missed the mark and continue to miss the mark. These are the days we must change our ways. These are the days we must appeal to God for forgiveness, appeal to those whom we have wronged for forgiveness, and seek forgiveness from ourselves as well. Now is the time, if we have not yet already, to perform teshuvah(repentance).
Saadia Gaon, the great 10th century rabbi, gives four steps we must perform for acceptable repentance: 1. Confession; 2. Remorse; 3. Seeking forgiveness; and 4. Accepting responsibility. Then, in addition to repentance, our rabbis teach that prayer and charity help to mitigate any harsh judgments against us. This is our time to shine before the Holy Judge. We do not act as defense attorneys, but rather we accept the charges, plead guilty, and beg for a lenient ruling. This week we truly begin the season of our judgment.
To help reinforce that, during this month of Elul, we are supposed to “do our best” before God and live righteously. The shofar is blown every morning (except Shabbat) at minyan. Its piercing call is designed to wake us from our slumber, rouse us from our laziness, and inspire us to live joyful lives of holiness and purpose. We add a special reading, Psalm 27, to remind us of life’s finitude and God’s infinite nature. The already-beautiful morning service is brought alive even more as we approach the beginning of 5774 and the days of judgment.
Now is crunch time. I hope you will consider joining us at morning minyan, that the sound of the shofar and the reading of Psalm 27, in addition to our traditional morning service, will bring you joy, and inspire you and all of us to lead better, more meaningful lives. It is the fourth quarter and the bottom of the ninth; the ball is in our hands. Let’s together score a victory for ourselves, for God and for the Jewish people.
Rebecca, Caleb and Ayal join me in wishing you Shabbat shalom andchodesh tov (a good month).
-Rabbi Aaron Starr