The month of Elul is the last month in the Hebrew calendar preceding Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) which is characterized by soul searching. It is no coincidence that this year, at this time, special conditions such as intensive wildfires, devastating floods, extreme heat, hurricanes, wars, and terrorism, are revealed. The state of the world is putting extra pressure on us to do the math, to examine what we have done wrong, to figure out what we should ask for forgiveness for, and to decide to amend our faults in preparation for the new year.
This month people feel in a way that they are closer to their destiny and want to be more serious about life, plans, and goals and wish that everything will work out better and more successfully for them in comparison to last year. Humanity is currently facing raging situations where worrying events unfold every moment. We are beginning to fear that we literally will not be able to hold on to the Earth.
I see how the Creator is getting closer and closer to human beings demanding repentance for the way we treat each other and for our selfish relation to nature. First of all, we need to understand that everything is determined by human beings and the Creator hears and performs our will. If our thoughts and actions are for the sake of others, if we open our arms to each other and want to benefit everyone, the Creator will do good upon us.
But if we continue to behave contentiously as we do today, in conflict and quarrels with each other, then we will definitely have a very unpleasant fate. So it is really up to us to turn things around for the better. As it is written, “from the love of people to the love of the Creator.”
The acronym “ELUL” stands for “I am for my Beloved, and my Beloved is for me.” (Song of Songs 6:3) This means that in the good connection between us, we generate a common loving attitude to each other and then to the upper force of nature, the Creator. In response, He is revealed in our unity.
Our soul searching is about why we quarrel with each other endlessly, why we were created with such an evil inclination. All the species in nature operate according to their instincts and so they are never wrong. Conversely, we fail over and over again. Why is that so? Because we try to use our emotions and our mind in order to harm others and it backfires on us.
In the additional mind and emotions we were given compared to the animals, we have freedom of choice. Therefore, our role as human beings is to find the way to connection and unity. We look for the way, but each time, we discover that really we don’t want to unite and we don’t yearn for connection. This is actually our only sin or transgression; it is what stands in our way of achieving unity among us. Discovering this notion is what correction is about.
It is precisely during this time of the year when Selichot or days of repentance take place when we ask for forgiveness. First of all we ask forgiveness between us for our separation and harmful relations, and then we turn to the Higher Power asking Him for forgiveness. This way we finish our account for our deeds of the past year and start a new year with a clean sheet.
A prayer, then, is judging ourselves; it is the desire to discover and bring out all your sins and transgressions so that they can be corrected. Regret and repentance are not tears but the recognition of the need to unite. We see that the world is beginning to realize that without cohesion we simply will not be able to survive.
The conclusion of the month of Elul is that we want to reach a state of balance, the state of “love thy friend as thyself.” In order to achieve this goal and attain an inner transformation from egoistic to unselfish and compassionate we just need one thing— to open our hearts to each other. It is worth the effort.