The eve of Elul: Time to refocus

It is a month until Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. Some of us have started to think about it — where will we be during those days, who will be with us (guests), what will we eat, where will we pray. But if our focus is on the day itself, especially if we are thinking about (obsessing with) the more mundane aspects like how important it is to buy the exact right new fruit, then it may be time to refocus.

It is similar to thinking about a wedding day — how important it is to get it right, how terrible if we get the wrong hairstyle, if the food is not exactly right, if there are problems with the guest list. Are these things truly important? Or is it more about the marriage itself? Do we put as much thought and care into what goes on in our daily married life as we did to which flowers we picked for the wedding — which are long gone and forgotten but for pictures?

Are we sitting here, a scant month before the New Year to come, thinking about the day itself and all those petty details that we think are so important, or are we asking ourselves about what comes after? And what about the more important parts of the day — not *where* we are praying, but *how* we are praying, and what we are praying for? Where is our focus? Do we realize that Rosh Hashanah, not Yom Kippur, is truly the Day of Atonement — time to ask forgiveness, to look back on the year past and say what did I do with the time given to me, and do I deserve another year of life? Are we frightened, as well we should be?

I know I am. I know that I am full of questions, and looking for answers, because try though we may to pretend otherwise, we are not guaranteed another day, much less another year. I know, because my mother is struggling to live. She had her 70th birthday this past year by the grace of God, but it doesn’t look likely she’ll get another one. She got hit by cancer good and hard, and managed to astound the doctors who thought she would not have been with us as of last New Year — but she likes to keep people guessing.

She is a fighter, and has fought for and treasured this extra year. She has shown me how strong it is possible to be, and how important it is to live, and to love. She continues to laugh, and appreciate anything funny, especially the children. She continues to love, and appreciate every kiss and hug given and received. And she continues to live, as much as she can, and be a part of life. She now says Shehchiyanu every Friday night when she blesses the candles — thankful for every week, that God has brought her to this time. I am also grateful that God has brought her, and all of us, to this time, and given us moments to be together and treasure each other.

I will be asking myself many questions this New Year, the most important being, What will I do with this new year?

Please join me in davening for Rachel Devora bat Dinah Yehudit, and for all Clal Yisrael, this Rosh Chodesh Elul and this year.

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a FIFTEEN year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, is a copy editor, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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