ELUL IS BELIEVED TO BE AN ACRONYM OF “ANI L’DODI V’DODI LI” [I AM MY BELOVED’S AND MY BELOVED IS MINE] TAKEN FROM SONG OF SONGS 6:3, IN WHICH “THE BELOVED” IS HASHEM AND “I” IS THE JEWS. ELUL IN ARAMAIC MEANS “SEARCH.” DURING THIS TIME OF YEAR, LET US SEARCH OUR HEARTS.
By Rabbi Silverman, The Shul of Harbor Islands.
There is an old Chassidic tale about a Jewish man who strayed from his early upbringing and would live all year round totally separated from Jewish ways and from the Jewish community. However, once a year he would travel to see his Rabbi, looking for inspiration to “reconnect” to his earlier roots and to his earlier way of life.
For this occasion, he would put on his special “Shabbat” coat, even though he never used it the rest of the year and would leave it hanging in his closet.
One year, a thought came to him: “The Rabbi surely knows who I really am; he surely knows that I don’t live the lifestyle exemplified by the Shabbat coat. Should I be a hypocrite as well by wearing the Shabbat coat just to visit the Rabbi? Who am I fooling?
So he went to the Rabbi without the coat.
When he arrived the Rabbi looked at him and asked, “Where is the Shabbat coat?” to which the man replied, “I don’t wear it for a whole year, so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite by putting it on just when I come here.”
The Rabbi replied, “You made a big mistake. You see, when you wore that coat once a year when you came to visit, I used to think that the person standing in front of me with the Shabbat coat on is the real you and during the rest of the year it’s not the real you.”
So too it is with us. During the High holidays, most of us feel more Jewish. We are more involved, more connected and more inspired.
Throughout the year, our Jewish involvement may be limited, but once a year we increase our Jewish awareness and involvement, whether it is going to synagogue, fasting on Yom Kippur or attending a Rosh Hashanah dinner.
This is not a temporary break from who we are. This is who we are. This is our truest self.
The “reconnection” we make during the High Holidays becomes an anchor, a source of inspiration and guidance for the whole year.