Tonight, the Jewish month of Elul begins. It’s the last month in the Hebrew calendar, and the month that directly precedes the Jewish New Year.
And, just like the secular new year, everybody celebrates differently. Traditional Jews start each morning of Elul with the blowing of the shofar, a hollowed-out ram’s horn. It’s supposed to strike fear into our hearts–but a good kind of fear, a fear that leads to repentance, and to making our lives better. Sephardic Jews begin a 40-day recitation of Selichot, a series of sunrise prayers of confession and repentance.
The book 60 Days by Simon Jacobson, a chronicle of the Elul and High Holiday cycle, says that some of the best and most effective rituals for this season are those we develop ourselves–keeping a daily journal of positive things we’ve done, for instance, or picking a favorite poem or psalm and meditating on it.
Just how do we improve our relationships with each other and with the Divine? Because every relationship is different, there’s no single path or process that works for everyone.