Elul Meditation: Return to Yourself - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Elul Meditation: Return to Yourself

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By: Etti Krinsky

Elul, a month of reflection and introspection as the High Holidays approach. Elul feels intrinsically connected to Tishrei, a sort of preparatory space. But just as every human is holy and important in their own right, each month, too, has its own meaning and purpose, separate from all the months that surround it.

Elul is not just a month of trembling before G‑d, asking forgiveness and counting our sins with mounting fear. That is often how it is painted, but its beauty and meaning go so much deeper.

According to Kabbalah, each month is connected to another letter of the aleph-bet, and the month of Elul is connected to the letter yud (Sefer Yetzirah). Yud is the smallest letter, even sometimes called “baby yud” by children learning the Hebrew alphabet; yet it is simultaneously one of the most important letters, holding a place in the name of G‑d. It is not loud and boisterous or extravagantly designed, but it has rich, Kabbalistic energy on its inside. Like the letter yud, Elul propels us inward—to shed the outer image we have created that we rely on so heavily all year, to reach inside, to find who we really are beneath the externals.

Soon, we will be busy with prayers, long days in the synagogue, holiday meals and socializing. We will gather together and hear the shofar to announce the new year. We will begin with a flurry of new plans and new energy.

Elul is silence. The word Elul is an acronym for the verse ina liyado vesamti lecha – “[G‑d] caused it to happen, and I will provide for you [a place to find refuge].” These words come from a verse in Exodus (21:12-13) relating to cities of refuge.

Cities of refuge, in Temple times, were spaces on the outskirts of cities where those who had accidentally killed would run for refuge. It was a place that guaranteed safety from the family members seeking retribution. The Torah mandated the creation of these towns.

While most of us have not killed anyone this past year, we have all had our own ups and downs. Perhaps we are not feeling connected to our spirituality. Maybe we’re exhausted from a long, difficult year. Perhaps we have let go of certain commitments or struggled to show up for our Judaism, for our family, for ourselves.

We are being beckoned to our spiritual city of refuge.

G‑d is saying, “I don’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done; I don’t care if you’re feeling broken or if you feel like a failure. You are safe here. Come to your refuge.”

Elul is your very own city of refuge. G‑d is waiting with open arms. Come to the stillness, the silence in the city of refuge—return to your own inner world that is pure beyond wrongdoing, the part of you that does not focus on externals, likened to that of the unassuming yud. Elul is essence. It is stillness, it is return, after a year of running from our truth, a year of worry and stress and mistakes made.

You are here, in Elul. Your year is coming to an end, a new year is just around the corner, offering fresh starts and new beginnings. Before you take the step over the threshold, pause. Return to self. Rest in the safety of knowing G‑d is near, and He is beckoning the innermost part of you.

Find stillness. Find silence. Perhaps turn off the lights in the room, stop your leg from shaking, your fingers from scratching. Come to stillness. Meet G‑d in the field.

(Chabad.org)

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