Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Elul: A New Beginning, a Fresh Start, a Time to Look Forward

JanetheWriter Writes… This essay was originally written for posting on However, that blog has been experiencing technical difficulties for the last few days and thus, I am posting it here instead.

Earlier this week, we marked both the unofficial end of summer and, with the arrival of Elul, the unofficial start of the High Holy Day season. Indeed, with each Elul, each Simchat Torah "Bereshit" and each seder-concluding "L'shana ha-ba-ah b'yerushalayim," our tradition graciously offers us an opportunity to seize a new beginning, a fresh start, a reason to look forward.

Six years ago at this season, just as I was closing out a difficult chapter in my own life, I had an opportunity to begin again in every way--a new job, a new home, and what I still think of as an entirely remade life back home here on the east coast.

During those first weeks at the Union for Reform Judaism, as I became acclimated to the newness of so many facets of my life, many interesting items crossed my desk. One story in particular, perhaps because of the then still fresh unpleasantness of my “old” life, remains with me to this day:

An old and somewhat decrepit donkey falls into a dry well. Upon discovering the donkey at the bottom of the well, the farmer who owns it decides that rather than trying to rescue the animal, he’ll bury it instead. He invites a few neighbors to help him with the task. Initially distraught, the donkey seems resigned to his fate as shovelful after shovelful of dirt hits his back from above. And then an idea strikes him: with each shovelful of dirt, the donkey shakes it off and steps up. Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up. Before long, the donkey’s out of the well and walking on the ground.
Yes, regardless of the dirt that gets thrown our way, each year the High Holy Days offer us a chance to shake it off and step up...a new beginning, a fresh start, a reason to look forward.

Just as the “donkey story” helped carry me forward into 5763, so too is it my hope that the inspirational messages contained in the “Jewels of Elul,” sent to me by email each day during the month, will help me look forward to the arrival of 5769 and its promise of a new beginning and a fresh start.

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