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The Perennial Thistle

Thursday, 20 August 2009


How did it get to be Elul already??? It seems like just yesterday we were at Sinai…

With the fall holidays upon us, we have some serious work to do. It is during this time that we reflect on our personal failings over the past year as well as our personal triumphs.

What could I have done better in my relationships with my loved ones?

Where might I have made wiser choices regarding my Jewish observance?

How can I make certain to continue doing those things that improve our world?

Like a tune-up for our cars, we use this as an opportunity to recalibrate our souls.

Am I really happy with the ways in which I treat others?

Do my words accurately reflect who I am? Do they reflect who I hope to become?

The Yamim Noraim (the [ten] days of awe) can be a period of intense reflection and, as a result, can be both exhausting and exhilarating as we realize that our efforts are always accepted by the Holy One.

This type of concentrated rumination requires preliminary groundwork in order for it to be effective. My teacher, Rabbi DadGiraffe offers the artichoke as a tangible metaphor for this soul-work. As a defense mechanism, we surround our souls with a gristly exterior meant to shield it from pain. Prickly thorns sometimes prevent others from getting too close. Until we peel back the layers, we often mistake these outer layers as our true selves.

This is not a pop quiz! God does not seek our failure. However, cramming for this examination of the soul is not an effectual technique. Sufficient effort is required. Beginning with this new month of Elul, our Tradition offers us adequate time to shed the hardened walls and prepare to meet our God on Yom Kippur.

We have much work to do. Setting aside time each day can provide the sacred space to do this very sacred work. Whether one chooses to read the traditional prayers of S’lichot, utilize a guided workbook such as Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days, or contemplate the questions on this Elul worksheet, the time devoted to stripping away the layers will be time well spent.

May we use this time wisely as we prepare to gather during this precious opportunity for renewal.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Friday, 18 September 2009 8:16 am

    This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read…:)


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