Basia Monka
Basia Monka
My motto: keeping life interesting and meaningful!

Elul got me by surprise

Elul got me by surprise, and by the time I absorbed the notice of coming to the end of the Jewish year, the month of Elul is almost over. It suddenly feels like everyone around me is planning the High Holidays, while I still plan from day to day.

On Rosh Hodesh Elul I was trying to recall what I did on Rosh HaShanah, last year. I remembered doing Tashlich on my own at the beach, but where was I for the dinners, where did I hear the shofar? For a moment I had a complete blackout. I’ve opened the puzzle box of my memories, looking for the right pieces. Where is my frame, how did I start 5781? Found it. What a relief. The other pieces will just fill in.

I immediately texted my friends I spent Rosh HaShanah evenings (in the limit of distance we were given by the law) last year, to say thank you, again.

Doing that I realized how much I am grateful for many moments during this year. And how much I feel the desire to thank, not to apologize, as it is customary in Judaism, this time of the year.

In Jewish tradition this is the time of ‘selichot’, the time of the year when we apologize, we say sorry to people we might have hurt or insulted, consciously or not; we ask for forgiveness and we hope to be forgiven. We also forgive. As much as we can. All of that – in order (in my understanding) not to enter the New Year with the baggage of bitterness and old sins. We also want to come clean in reports with other people, to give the space for the open talk with G-d during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, when we ask G-d for another year of life. What seems even more realistic in the times of Covid-19 and Delta Variant.

So we do say sorry. But I feel we should say thank you, not to be sorry for not noticing something good around us.

And before we will enter the High Holidays, I feel I should say thank you for all the good things that happened to me during this strange, different than any other, year. I won’t list them all (or I will in private), but I must write about the local community I live in.

During this year I was lucky (during lockdowns and between them) to volunteer at the community garden (“Garden in the Kerem”); in the middle of the city to plant and water plants. For a city girl like myself, that was really a big deal! To organize and to co-host Shabbat dinners, there; to open the gate of the Garden in the morning, to have coffee, and to talk to local people of different ages and life experiences. And some of those relations stayed. I am very grateful to the Garden, to be a part of it, in its initial stage.

I was also lucky to watch many sunsets with other local people at the beach; often running away from police, together, when being the beach was at the edge with the law. Being open to meeting new, I spent with those people Sukkot and a few months later Chanukah, when we were lighting Chanukah candles each night on the street, also in the rain… Something so beautiful I will never forget. Not a religious community, simply young Israelis.

This is not easy to enter and integrate into Israeli society, many Olim Hadashim, we live in the bubble of emigrants. But this year was different for me I felt a part of the local society. And I say thank you for that. After all, I made aliyah to be in Israel.

I think this year made many people not only appreciate their local communities but also learned to appreciate themselves. The hidden talents, they might have not explored if not that year (over a year).

Don’t get me wrong, I am not grateful in any way to COVID-19. It took and takes the lives of many; it also raised numbers of depression and anxieties, and other mental illnesses, especially among very young and very old people. Unfortunately, some changes are irreversible…  Like everyone, I want this plague to be behind us.

But I am thankful for what we, each of us have managed to do well, to accomplish professionally or in everyday private life, despite the difficult times.

I cannot say I live by the Jewish months, but this Elul really got me by the surprise. And although it has put me in a reflective mood, I am thankful also for having so much to think about, and for giving me this frame of time. 

5782, I know you will not be easier, but be interesting and nice to us. I thank you, in advance.

About the Author
Basia Monka is a multilingual journalist with many years of experience in TV and leading respected international publications, specializing in both culture and politics. By education, a psychologist. Besides, she is a coordinator of international high profile events, Jewish educator and consecutive interpreter. In Poland, she worked also in the film industry, as an assistant director and interpreter on the set. Always passionate about culture and travel.
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