By Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Today begins the Hebrew month of Elul. The entire month of Elul, preceding our High Holy Day period, is filled with moments of mindfulness and pause, which enable us to reach the upcoming Days of Awe in the right spirit. All of the rituals this month are meant to help us open our hearts, focus our minds and begin anew with proper intentions. We blow the shofar each weekday morning during Elul, as if to say, “Wake up from your reverie, pay attention!” We recite Psalm 27, we spend time in quiet contemplation, and we pray words of Selichot, – words of forgiveness.
Elul is here to remind us that we cannot begin anew at Rosh Hashanah, without doing some intentional spiritual work and preparation. We spend time in reflection and thought, sometimes in silence, hearing what is deep in our own hearts and souls. We hope by doing so, we can become eloquent listeners, not only with our ears or eyes or intellect, but on a deeper level. Our aim is to hear God’s voice out of the silence, by doing the deepest kind of listening that only the soul can master. The kind of listening that enables us to hear and understand the silences, the spaces between the words, the meaning behind a gesture or expression – and then to respond appropriately.
If we listen carefully, we’ll be able to hear and understand the silence of a lover’s sigh, and the infant’s cry. We’ll be able to hear the call for help of the lonely soul and the sound of a breaking heart. When we become eloquent listeners, we’ll be able to hear beyond the words of our friends, into their unspoken pleas and dreams. We hope our deep spiritual work, during this Elul, will enable us to hear within ourselves the yearnings that are struggling for expression. As we begin anew this Elul, may we hear the call of community drawing us near, uniting us, lifting us up and bringing us together, even stronger than before.
Help us, O God, to hear both the sounds and the silences. And may we learn to hear you, O God, within the silence. For only if we hear you, do we have the right to hope that you will hear us.