Rabbi Lief’s Message: September 2016

Time Flies; Elul is Here

Summer vacation is drawing to a close, bringing with it the unwelcome obligations of lessons and homework in lieu of endless days and nights of fun and relaxation for school children everywhere. When we were young, those summer breaks seemed like eternity itself: a paradise of potential, a release from responsibility, an invitation to imagination. When we were young, those two or three months represented a significant portion of our total existence. Three months is a full five percent of the lifespan of a five year old. As we’ve aged, time seems to have accelerated. Not only is each day a smaller and smaller portion of our total time on earth, but we have chosen to fill each day with more and more obligations on our time. Our cell phones keep us connected with others at all times, but out of touch with ourselves. Our jobs keep us very busy, but the business of being us is left unfinished. Our schedules are full but our lives feel empty. Time flies by, both for those having fun and also for those missing out on it, and all too often we fail to notice the difference. When is the last time you did something enjoyable, simply because you wanted to, instead of because you had to? If your answer is anything other than, “today,” it should give you pause.

The summer has flown by, but so will the fall and the winter and the spring. Time cannot be marked solely by crossing off days on a calendar, tearing off the pages each month, and picking up a new one each year. Trudging forward on the long march may be an existence, but it is not a meaningful life. Sometimes a step to the side, a turning back, or the choice of an entirely new course is in order.

This month of September brings the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the precursor to the Days of Awe. Elul arrives to give us time to prepare for the spiritual journey ahead. The sound of the shofar is our wake up call, our back to school bell that says it is time for us to learn a little more about ourselves. We take time to get ready now, because the annual High Holy Days of reflection will only be high and holy if we make them so. Ten Days of Awe in the course of a lifetime of “aww,” pass away like a shadow under the bright glare of the sun. Ten days under that same summer sun used to seem like forever. How can we recapture that sense of promise and hope, that feeling of bursting out of the back door of the house into a wide open world without worry? It doesn’t take a bicycle, or a tree house or a babbling brook. No gushing hydrant, ice cream truck, or baseball glove is required. All that you need is in you already: an open heart, an open mind, and an openness to putting them to good use. Take these days and make them special. Find in them your hidden wish to become the person you want to be. Let them transport you to a far off but not forgotten time when anything was possible. It is possible, still. Get ready to lose yourself in the Days of Awe, and you might find in them the courage to make of your life something meaningful in the days that lie ahead. Becca, Leah, Ellie, and I wish you and your family a happy and healthy upcoming New Year, and joy on whatever journey your life might take in 5777.