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#BlogElul and #ElulGram 2016

Elul 5776 is the month before Rosh Hashanah 5777. It starts on September 3, 2016.

It's the month for cheshbon hanefesh; an internal reconciling in preparation for the Days of Awe (not that we shouldn't be engaging in self reflection the rest of year, by the way).

For several years, my colleague Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has led her initiative #BlogElul and (most recently) #ElulGram. (Her description is here.)

As a Jew, a Jewish leader - a leader of Jews? - I see #BlogElul as a way to both teach about the value of introspection and to engage in it myself.

Don't just read my posts ... I invite you to read and comment and share my thoughts and even blog your own Elul. You can post thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram ... on any social media outlet you wish. If you do, add #BlogElul and/or #ElulGram so that Rabbi Sommer and the rest of us can follow along.

And so here I go again. I guarantee my posting won't be consistent. I'll aim for perfection, but I'm sure to miss the mark, and that's ok.




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Elul 21: The airline safety guide (Love)

You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Adonai. (Lev. 19:18)

You shall love the stranger that dwells with you (who will be for you like the native-born among you), as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Adonai, your God. (Lev. 19:34)

And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might ... (Deut. 6:5)

If you've paid attention to your flight attendant, you know that in the event of an emergency, you put your own oxygen mask on first. Only then do you help someone next to you, including a child. Why? Because if you don't have oxygen, you're useless to anyone else.

It's the same with love.

Start by loving and caring for yourself. It's not selfish; it's just a place to start.

Then move outward: your neighbor, your community, the strangers around you.

Then, finally, the realm of God: the spiritual love that holds all the others together.

But it all starts in your own home.


Erev Rosh Hashanah 5777: WAIT

I got the best advice from my son: "Mom, why are you even engaging with these people? Please stop."

I've got people on Facebook who - while holding similar philosophies in some areas - are 180 degrees from me politically. I long ago determined that arguing with these people is counterproductive, only useful if I believe - science notwithstanding - that heartrate-raising arguments is equal to a good cardio workout.

And so my goal for today is to WAIT (by the way, not an original concept - I learned it from Rabbi Andy Sklarz): Why Am I Talking?

Provocateurs and bullies want to be engaged. They poke, someone responds, and the game is afoot. Like fire, they need constant air renewal. So if don't engage, don't respond, they will run out of air.

So for today, I grit my teeth ... and wait.


Elul 7: Choice - God, the Restaurant, and Malbec

Choices are good.
Choices are terrifying.
Choices are God's way of saying, "Hey, human, trust Me; you and I got this, and don't worry, there's no choice that can't be undone."

I'm a holy terror in a restaurant. I eyeball and dissect every possibility. I'm usually the last to order so I can see what everyone else ordered because obviously their choices are going to be better than mine. I torture myself and the wait staff: suppose I order this (and I don't like it) or that (and someone gets something better)? What if I daringly order a house-special cocktail and I really hate it instead of going with something safe, like a glass of Malbec?

Now take that food-ordering mentality and make it macro.

What if I mess up? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I disappoint myself and someone else? What if I make a choice and people stop loving me or leave me?

Here's the beautiful thing about having a relationship with the Holy One of Blessing: Unle…