Below, an actual transcription of a text exchange with my brother (the usual writer of this blog), Rabbi Eli Davidowitz:
“…a million no pressures - do you want to write a thought about Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur for our Kollel publications?”
“I do and don’t? I’ll let you know. It means I’d have to confront my Elul demons.”
Despite the fact that he’s my favorite brother, despite the fact that he asked so nicely, and despite the fact that I’m on a mission to prove that I’m the better writer…I still wasn’t sure if I had the time, energy, or capacity to confront Elul.
I’ll let you in on some background that might lend some clarity. I have 4 littles, who are all at once incredibly fun and incredibly exhausting. So with Elul beginning in mid-August, here’s a little behind-the-scenes peek on what Elul has looked like so far.
“Moooommmyyy, what are we doing today??? Seriously? Again???” Don’t forget school supplies. What’s for dinner? Did anyone see my keys? “Mommy, he’s hitting me!!!!” Polos. School pants. Pencils. Backpacks. Bathing suits, goggles, oh no, I forgot to wash the towels. Has anyone seen my keys? “Moommmmyyyy!!!” I can go on, but I’ll spare you the headache.
And as far as what Elul hasn’t involved? Introspection, prayer (besides whispered between sips of coffee), or preparation for the holy days ahead.
So when my brother texted me and I checked the calendar and saw how soon Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur really were, I needed to take a minute and re-evaluate. The month of Elul on the Jewish calendar is generally set aside for reconnecting with God, repentance, contemplation, and prayer. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is a time where we reconnect to our Maker, crown Him as our King, and pray for a happy and healthy new year. Yom Kippur, literally translated as the Day of Repentance, is a day to repent for our misdeeds and recommit to living according to the Torah, on God’s path. As such, Jews take the month of Elul to prepare for the Holy Days ahead.
And as I’ve been knee-deep in preparing three meals a day to an always-ravenous crew and breaking up fights that someone else always started, I felt as though the Elul train had pulled out of the station and left me behind. The way I saw it, there were a couple of options ahead.
Option 1, I could panic, freeze, and decide that I just can’t do it this year. Too tired, too many school supplies, and not enough hours in the day. Tempting.
Option 2, I could go full throttle in the other direction. Forget the school supplies, neglect the last few days of poolside fun, and go all Elul, all the time.
Could there be an option 3? I take a pause and tap into the slower-paced mindset I’ve been honing all summer, into patience, grace, and understanding.
In Mesilas Yesharim, in the beginning of the first chapter, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato states, “Each person should have clarity in his mission in their world.” Notably, it doesn’t say in the world (a global mission), but rather in their world. The Baalei Mussar expand on this concept, explaining that each person has his or her own unique mission in the world. And Rav Shlomo Wolbe expands further, stating that each stage in a person's life has its own mission. The Mesillas Yesharim indicates that each person needs clarity on his or unique purpose at each unique stage.
My unique stage of life? Well, it isn’t flush with spare pockets of time. And while it’s filled with holy work, that holy work looks like Amazon orders and cutting cold watermelon and watching my 9 year old perfect his cannonball. G-d entrusted these children to me, and nurturing them is my holy work. And while I certainly can, and should, and will!, fit more time in for prayer, repentance, and introspection, I’m going to let the Elul demons go.
Because, as it turns out, I’ve been preparing for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur all along.