A Water from the Well blog post, Elul
written by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
We have just entered the month of Elul- a time of preparation for the High Holidays. In this month it is customary to recite Psalm 27 each day. This psalm includes the familiar song Ahat Sha’alti. It also includes a phrase at the very end of the psalm beginning with the word lulei– which means: if only. We all have many “if only” moments.
If only I had done it differently…
If only I had not done …
If only I had said it this way …
If only I had held my tongue…
These moments of awareness are so important. They are not necessarily useful as a source for heaping guilt upon ourselves. Rather, these thoughts are instances of awakening. They are moments of recognizing when we fell into unconscious reflexive action and caused unintended hurt to someone. We all do this. It is part of human nature. Yet, we can also become more awake to our tendencies and thereby control our impulsive reactions, often referred to by the Rabbis as our yetzer ha’ra– our inclination toward doing harm.
Lulei- if only I had controlled my anger, my reactivity.
If only I had been more generous, kind or loving.
The interesting thing about the Hebrew word lulei is that if you reverse its Hebrew letters:לולא you find the word: Elul – אלול. Indeed, Elul is the month for reversals, for turning things around. Let us turn ‘if only’ into ‘I will repair.’ Our Rabbis instructed us to use this month to review our behavior, our speech, our interactions and to make repair so that we might truly enter into a New Year of fresh possibilities and connection.
Our tradition also teaches that the name of this month- Elulאלול/ – can be read as an acrostic. Each letter represents a word so that Elul/אלול stands for the phrase:
Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li – אני לדודי ודודי לי which means, I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine. Woven into this word play is the idea that within this month of Elul lies the potential for deepening our loving relationship with G-d and with all our relations on our beloved earth.
This year, more than ever, let us turn Lulei into the healing possibility of Elul. Let us turn our regrets into the fuel for a greater love, a higher understanding, a more balanced and healthy life upon this precious planet.