I hope you and your family are well. I am thinking of you and sending my positive thoughts and prayers. We are missing everyone, and hope to bridge the distance through this electronic connection.
We are in the Hebrew month of Elul; this is a special time of preparation leading up to the Jewish High Holidays. During this month, we begin a thoughtful inner dialogue to help us reflect, repent and prepare for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Throughout this period, we carefully examine our patterns, looking for cracked or damaged areas that may need healing. In addition, Elul provides a unique opportunity to look at any challenges and dreams. What did we do well? How can we improve and make the coming year better?
This has been a challenging year! Find the time and the space to reflect and prepare for the High Holidays. Use the ideas (below) to help guide your intention, prepare mentally, and heal spiritually. I hope the month of Elul brings you many opportunities for spiritual growth and loving connections.
“And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build a life as if it were a work of art.” -Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)
IDEAS TO ENHANCE THOUGHTFUL PREPARATION:
1.Getting Started and Setting Intention– A self-inventory is not always easy. So, before you begin to ask yourself questions, focus on quieting your mind. Strive for a peaceful openheartedness. Find the best time and space to encourage introspection. Be very intentional. Use these simple steps to set your intention:
- Find a Peaceful Physical Space and a Calming Time- Where do you feel balanced and have a sense of shalom (peace)? Everyone is different. Perhaps this is a room in your home or a backyard space? Perhaps, nature promotes healing and wholeness. If so, a lovely garden, a spot near Lake Michigan or even a park bench may bring you tranquility. What time of day are you at your best? Are you more alert in the morning or at night? Some people feel calm and refreshed in the morning. Personally, I love the stillness in the evening; the quiet night brings me peace and focus. Find your best time of day.
- Quiet Your Mind and Body, Then Find Your Intention- Try deep breathing to induce relaxation. Quieting your body and mind can help you feel balanced before you begin. Close your eyes. Take in a breath. Let it fill your lungs deeply. Hold the breath, and in this moment, set your intention toward inward reflection. Let out your breath. Unwind, feel your body relaxing. Breathe deeply and let your mind go.
- Aligned Your Physical and Mental State- Now that you are focused and calm, you may feel more committed and open to the process of introspection.
“When you set an intention, the universe conspires to give you the inspiration to make it happen.” -Trish McKinnley
2. Asking Yourself Questions to Encourage Healthy Reflection– Imagine each of us has our own Book of Life; it is filled with all our words and actions. Rabbi Jessica Barolsky (and others) uses this concept. She suggests the High Holidays is a time to pause and look back at our own Book of Life. Rabbi Barolsky asks, “What would you find in your divine notebook?” It is up to us to fill it with the good, rather than the bad. Ask yourself questions to encourage self-reflection and hope. Pick questions that speak to your soul. Here are a few to get you started:
- During the Past Year, What Would Your Proudest Moments Be?- Perhaps your words or deeds made a difference in someone’s life. Who did you touch in a loving or a meaningful way? What have you done that fills your heart with joy and blessings?
- What Would You Want to Change?- What habit would you like to break? What do you want to work on during the next year? Begin practicing habits that will make you proud next year (when you look back).
- Do You Need to Say You Are Sorry?- Think about all the relationships you have. Who do you need to connect with- a partner, spouse, parent, child, or friend? Reach out and seek forgiveness to anyone you have hurt. It is never too late to apologize.
- What Are You Grateful For?- Blessings and gratitude come in many forms and bring love and peace. What are the simple pleasures that make you smile? What revitalizes you? Have you noticed daily blessings? Perhaps there have been larger, more monumental, ones?
- What More Can You do in the Coming Year to Help Tikkun Olam– Repairing the World?- We each have an obligation to continue to mend our imperfect world. Find a cause that matters to you, and work to bring in more kindness and love. Imagine if we all made a small contribution- how enormous the outcome would be! Let’s all do our part. Wake up each morning, find a way to be grateful, and use energy helping others.
“If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly in the world, then it is you yourself that needs repair.”
–Menachem Mendel Schneerson
3. Using Traditions and Ideas for Inspiration- “Rosh Hashanah does not burst in upon us.” (-Arthur Waskow) We can use this time to make ourselves ready. Be fully engaged and present throughout the month of Elul; enhance your experience.
- Enjoy the Sounds of the Shofar – During the month of Elul, the Shofar (ram’s horn) is blown every morning (expect on Shabbat). Symbolically, the Shofar “blasts” are intended to wake our souls and move us into a spiritual accounting. If you cannot make it to synagogue to hear the Shofar, then I’ve got you covered! Click here to watch/listen to Rabbi Shalom Gold sound the Shofar in Israel. Click for this (24 second) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JSnXmFq8lM
- Inspire Grateful Intention Through Music- Music can affect mood. Listen to your favorites and let the energy and message transport you. Use the power of music to motivate you toward a reflective state; lyrics and/or melody can soothe the soul and bring balance. Pick your personal favorites, or try these selections to awaken your soul:
- “Ordinary Miracle” by Sarah McLachlan– This is a lovely song! Although the video is a bit grainy, the song is crystal clear and touching. Close your eyes and enjoy. Click here to listen (3 minute video): https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ordinary+miracle+by+sarah+mclachlan&view=detail&mid=7A11CD14B8F6E671ABC07A11CD14B8F6E671ABC0&FORM=VIRE0&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dordinary%2520miracle%2520by%2520sarah%2520mclachlan%26qs%3dn%26form%3dQBRE%26msbsrank%3d4_4__0%26sp%3d-1%26pq%3dordinary%2520miracle%2520by%2520sarah%2520mclachlan%26sc%3d4-35%26sk%3d%26cvid%3d2269E4D09F6C4C7BACA1C0AEA2AF59E5
- “One Day” by Matisyahu- I love Matisyahu’s uplifting, positive message of hope! Click here to listen to this inspiring song. This is a true favorite! Enjoy this (3 minute video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRmBChQjZPs
- “When You Believe- From The Prince of Egypt” by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey (5 minute video)- What a duet and message! Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKaXY4IdZ40
- “Oseh Shalom” by Rick Recht- Oseh Shalom is a prayer for peace and wholeness. For me, this tune is hypnotic. Click here for this (3 minute) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaP5ehemeBw
- “Avinu Malkeinu” -Lior with Nigel Westlake and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra- This is a gorgeous and stirring performance. Click here for the (6 minute) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Nsta-pykaE
- Plan Ahead- Take stress out of the holidays by preparing food now and freezing. Click here for 55 (yes, 55!) recipes you can freeze ahead of time. https://www.kosher.com/lifestyle/40-rosh-hashanah-recipes-to-freeze-ahead-889 Still not sure what to make? No problem! Here are 40 more- make ahead recipes that will freeze well: https://jamiegeller.com/browse/40-recipes-to-make-ahead-and-freeze/
- Learn to Make a Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah– Make delicious challah (ceremonial braided egg bread), freeze and enjoy during the holiday. Choose from a variety of challah dough recipes, learn how to shape/braid this special round challah, and pick yummy fillings like apple or chocolate. However, most importantly, don’t forget to save a piece for me! Video tutorials are available to assist. https://reformjudaism.org/how-make-round-challah-rosh-hashanah
3. Try a Little Brain Health- Regular mental fitness exercise can boost memory, focus, and mental skills. Give your brain a daily workout!
Try this Elul brain health exercise. Draw an outline of your family home. Describe each room. Add details about colors, scents, and what you feel and hear in your home. What blessings and memories fill your rooms? Recall these details during your reflection.
4. Check out a “Museum Moment”- Ellie Gettinger, Education Director at Jewish Museum Milwaukee, sat down with Rabbi Moishe Steigmann to discuss how to approach the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In thinking about this time of reflection, how do you plan on preparing for a new year? Click here for this (14 minute) video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8KF8lzGOBg
5. Find a COVID-19 Vaccine- I strongly urge you to get a Covid-19 vaccine! The Covid virus has mutated, becoming stronger with the very contagious Delta Variant. Are you and everyone you love vaccinated? If not, please get vaccinated today! Do it for yourself, your family, and your community. Click here to find a vaccine near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/ Many locations offer same day and walk-in appointments. Do you have additional questions? Click here for more information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/
“Set a goal so big you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.” –unknown
We have been through many challenges this year- in our world, in our community and in our families. Certainly, there is no shortage of events and feelings to process! So, use this month to prepare, reflect and find additional meaning. I hope the enclosed creative questions and ideas enhance your experience. Reflect on the past year and set goals and positive intentions for the year to come; recommit to the people, issues and connections that matter most.
As always, if you have a question related to aging, memory loss or caregiving, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here for you, and happy to help. You can find me here: DRubin-Winkelman@ovation.org
Thinking of you and sending all my positive energy and love,