November 15, 2018

“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”

This week, on Erev Rosh Hashanah I want to write about something a little different but still wedding related. Even though the heading refers to the month of Elul and preparations for Rosh Hashanah, we can apply some of the same principles in our personal lives and especially to our close relationships during these months.
According to the Rabbis, Elul is the time when we attempt to come closer to God and establish that relationship of intimacy in preparation for the Days of Awe that follow in the month of Tishre and they believe that we cannot simply enter that period without preparation and expect the Days of Awe to be meaningful. As we prepare for our wedding we often become so bogged down with all the details that we forget that we cannot or should not enter into a marriage without preparation and expect it to be meaningful. We should not lose sight of the fact that this is not just about the celebration but also about the many years ahead of us.

As with the month of Elul, we need to take time during the preparations for the wedding to keep connecting on a higher level to our beloved and to establish that relationship of intimacy, mutual “belonging” and of fulfillment of the love that a couple has for one another as expressed so well in the love poetry of the Song of Songs. The rabbis understood this book as teaching that our ideal relationship to God can only be understood when compared to the love between partners.

Preparation for the High Holidays consists of daily sounding of the shofar; recitation of Psalm 27 morning and evening; and special slihot (penitential) prayers. Couples can create a special ritual for themselves during the months of wedding preparation to help them stay centered and connected and also to remind them not to lose sight of the reason they are getting married: the love they have for one another. In fact, as with Rosh Hashanah, a couple can make time annually or even weekly to deepen or reinforce the love and commitment they have for each other with meaningful rituals such as date night or time away by themselves! Life goes by in such a hurry and our lives can become so busy that we don’t make enough time for what is truly important in life: relationships with our loved ones!

With Rosh Hashanah the shofar is a wake-up call that reminds us that we have to consider our actions and seek to improve and change. The Days of Awe are predicated on the concept that human beings are endowed with free will and are responsible for their actions. Therefore, they can choose to do evil or choose to do good. They have the possibility of change and are not doomed to do the wrong thing which is a fundamental principle of Judaism. This applies to us in our marriages as well. We can take responsibility for the things we have done that were hurtful to our partners, work on ways to improve our relationship and seek constant self-improvement and change where necessary.

The ancient rabbis took the New Month (Rosh Hodesh) of Tishrei – the seventh month of the year – and turned it into a time in which we celebrate our ability to choose and our ability to change, emphasizing the responsibility we have for our own choices and actions. Unless one recognizes what one has done wrong and seeks forgiveness for it, change is impossible. In our relationships we don’t have to wait for the seventh month, we can recognize our wrongs and acknowledge our ability to change and make those efforts as often as needed.

As we confront a new year, we begin to think of what lies ahead – and one never knows what that is. However, we are not helpless, we are in control of our choices and actions. This is the perfect time to start traditions and rituals in our relationships that ensure we draw ever closer to one another, and watch our words and actions, ensuring we uplift and support our partners and relationships and encourage as opposed to hurt.

The month of Elul gives us the opportunity to grapple with these feelings, of accepting responsibility for those things that are within our control, namely our own actions, of seeing how we can improve and, most of all, of moving closer to a relationship of love with God and our partners and live our best lives.

“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”: These are our tasks during the month of Elul.

L’shanah tovah tikateyvu v’tichatemu