AS WE ROUND into the final month of 5778 and welcome Elul, the final month of our Jewish calendar year, we are instructed to reflect on the past year. How did we live? Did we achieve what we had hoped to? Is our world better because of the choices we made? Because of the actions we took? Did we stand strong for what is important, and just, and honorable, or did we sit on the sidelines and let others dictate the direction of our lives and our world? Did we achieve what we wanted to achieve? Did I? Did you?
These are such hard questions to answer. They require us to really look at who we are, examine our actions, and figure out what it all means. Honestly, it is one of the many things that I love about Judaism. I appreciate that our faith creates the structure where we are commanded to allocate ourselves time: Time to think, time to consider, and time to recalibrate if needed.
Time is something that many of us are less familiar with in our busy 21st century lives. We are governed by the clock or deadlines. We prize structure and achievement, trying to fit more into less time, and get busier and busier with each passing day. With so much pressure, slowing down and taking time to think, to consider, to align our lives with our values, to focus on what we really want and what is really important to us, can get lost or forgotten, or overshadowed by the constant temptation of Instagram, Netflix, or the latest new series on Amazon Prime.
Judaism, however, is built to help us manage these pressures and temptations. The structure of the Jewish calendar designates more than the month of Elul for downtime and reflection. Each week we are given Shabbat, a time when we are commanded to unplug, cease from all work, and simply rest, free to distractions and technology. Our tradition teaches us to use this time to look at our week and reflect. Did the week go as we had expected or hoped? What could I have done to help make it better?
This month, I challenge all of us to slow down, take back our time, and embrace Elul for what it was intended: a month of reflection. Be honest, figure out what is working and what is not, and let us launch our next year with renewed commitment to our goals. With renewed energy to achieve all that we hope to. And the focus to ensure that we appreciate the world around us, love our families and friends, relish in the time that we are given, take the actions needed to make our world what we want it to be, and not take our lives for granted.
Shecheyanu: It is the blessing we say when we mark a special occasion, requiring us to stop and appreciate the moment for what it is… a gift.
Jason Moss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. He can be reached at email@example.com.