Throughout history we as Jews have leaned on our traditions to lead us back to ourselves in times of trouble or uncertainty. The month of Elul is one of those traditions: a time of cheshbon hanefesh or an accounting of the soul.
Elul has come at a perfect time this year; many of us are carrying a heavy emotional load due to the current state of affairs. Elul encourages us to take time to look inward and prepare for what’s to come. In this spirit, we are offering a multi-modal Elul experience:
LEARN: Elul Psalms Series, or, What Does a Jew Do With All These Worries, Hopes, and Feelings?
Sunday August 23, 30, and September 6, 2-3:15 pm on Zoom
“All our days slip away.” “Help me stay safe.” “Shield me from the counsel of evil men.” “Look how good and pleasant it was to be together.”
All these phrases are from the Book of Psalms, but they could easily describe our feelings in this moment, too. As we enter into Elul and this unusual season of teshuvah, we’ll use the ancient psalms as an entry point to gentle awareness, creativity, and reflection. Each class will offer a mix of learning, discussion, and writing.
August 23: Introduction and Psalms of Noticing and Gratitude
We’ll talk briefly about what makes a psalm, explore some psalms of gratitude (from the Book of Psalms and contemporary poets), and talk about what it means to be a Jew talking to/about the Holy. Our first writing exercise will serve to ‘prime the pump’ and get words flowing; our second exercise will invite reflection on our values, our voices, and our relationship to the Source. Expect rich discussion and sharing.
August 30: Psalms of Fear and Loss
Today’s focus is psalms of anxiety, fear, and loss. We’ll explore some of these psalms (both classical and contemporary) and then shift into writing together. Our writing exercises will help us give name to our experiences of living through this time of disorientation and grief, and those who wish will be invited to share their reflections in small groups. This session requires particular care because these psalms can evoke or activate difficult emotions. We’ll close this session with a meditative, musical practice designed to help us release our emotions and return to a sense of spiritual safety.
September 6: Psalms of Comfort and Connection
In this session we’ll explore psalms of connection to the Holy and the holiness within ourselves and community. We’ll do a deep dive into a single psalm, exploring how different translations and nuances of language can impact a psalm’s message. We’ll explore psalms both classical and contemporary, and then engage with our final two writing exercises.
LISTEN: Songs of Return, A High Holiday Community Playlist
We’ve started a community playlist on Spotify that already includes some gorgeous niggunim, new melodies, and High Holiday favorites to get us in the teshuvah mood. We want you to listen and enjoy, of course, but also invite you to add your favorites tunes so we can all hear them. To listen, all you need is a free Spotify account. To add music, you’ll need to open the Spotify app on your phone, tablet, or desktop.
BREATHE: Elul Meditation Offerings
A series of pre-recorded meditations from Rabbi Ora and members are now available to stream, below. These themed meditations vary in length and style, and can be listened to on your schedule as many times as you like.
Blessing This Moment (16 min)
Sitting in Divine Light (10+ min)
Gam Zeh Kadosh/This, Too, Is Holy (9+ min)
WRITE: Daily Reflection Prompt
Sign up to receive daily reflection and journalling prompts for the entire month of Elul (August 21-September 18). Created by Rabbi Jordan Braunig, these prompts are “meant to give us time to cozy up to ourselves, to spend a few moments a day with our souls and to maybe learn a thing or two about ourselves.”
SING: Selichot 5780: Creating Holy Space Within
Saturday September 12, 8 pm on Zoom
Our Selichot services will ease us into the High Holy Days with beautiful melodies led by members and Rabbi Ora. In addition to singing and havdalah, we’ll take time to imagine how to create holy space in our hearts and our homes in anticipation of online Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services.
If you have any questions about any of these Elul offerings, please email Gillian.