Today marks the first of Elul, the month in the Jewish calendar that focuses us on the last stages of fully preparing for the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe). Rosh Hashanah will be four weeks from tonight!
I am pleased, delighted, honor, and just plain excited to share with all of you my first ever professionally published article at MyJewishLearning.com. Though I wrote using my “professional Jewish educator” hat, I believe it also falls quite nicely into my life goals for empowering Jews to creatively express their personal practice while simulaneously engaging with the tradition. Additionally, just because the article talks about doing these activities as a family, most are appropriate for adults as well.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
Starting on the first Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, we begin to recite the daily selichot service, a series of penitential prayers that overlap in form, theme and content with sections of the High Holiday liturgy. One of the sections that is repeated many times both in this service and then later in the high holiday liturgy is the passage enumerating the thirteen attributes of mercy. In the original text from Exodus, Moses asks God for permission to “see” God face to face. [God declines, but instead allows Moses to look over His shoulder]
The mystery in this story lies in what Moses actually sees. The Torah likely did not mean to imply that God takes a literal human form. Rather, God gives Moses a glimpse of the world by looking over God’s shoulder; in other words, Moses sees the world from God’s perspective. Elul is about trying to understand the impact that our actions have on other people. Perhaps when Moses says “Let me behold Your Presence,” God’s response isn’t about literally seeing God from Moses’ perspective, but affording Moses the opportunity to see the world from God’s perspective.
Take turns looking over each other’s shoulders. If your family members have significant height differences, pick each other up or stand on chairs to get higher, or bend down to get lower. Lie down on the grass and see the world perspective of the ants; follow around your pet dog or baby sister by crawling. What do you see now that you couldn’t before?
Now think back to someone you are asking forgiveness from, or someone you need to forgive. Is there something you are not seeing because you are too stubborn to look at the situation from their perspective?