Elul, a time of reflection, “soul accountability,” time to take stock of thoughts and conversations of the past year. This Elul sends me to thoughts of isolation. Isolation leads to an increase in inner thought, that then leads to the opportunity for inner reflection that is wrapped inside of silence. If true, we have for many months been prematurely thrust into the work we are guided to do during the month of Elul.
The daily noise of cars, the tech equipment buzzing in an office or at home, voices in every setting, at every decibel level is what we are accustomed to in our sun-up to sun-down lives that blocks out the silence. Have you noticed how silence increased when we began isolation for protective health? Have you noticed how noise has steadily increased since June? If you have been able to touch the sound of silence, you were able to hear the geese fly west in the morning and east in the evening. You were able to differentiate the quacks of the leader giving directions all the way back to the river beds. You could quickly identify the difference between geese, parrots and crows. You could hear the sparrows bending over for a bit of water from a puddle. You could hear the skittering of a lizard running across the patio. You would be mindful of your own breathing.
Increasing silence has nudged us into thinking about the potential quiet space offers to our lives. During this time of reflection we may have noticed our connections to nature and respond to our inner conversations. It seems that silence offers two paths. One path leads to more self thought, introspection and even sorting through old memories that haven’t surfaced in years. The second path measures how we will evaluate the effect of living in a noisy, interactive social structure that values “busy.” We will have the opportunity to test our level of tolerance for returning to that same level of “noise” when society completely reopens. Do we change the existing ‘noise’ in our lives? Do we invite more silence? Can reflective inner silence lead to a more peaceful existence? The answers may be obvious, but the practice may be challenging.
This time in history, this past year has been a time of loud inner voices asking how much talking without meaningful listening has happened in our personal lives, as well as our Temple lives. How much comprehensive speaking have we engaged in, especially this year, using our voices to improve our lives while avoiding their use as negative devices?
My sincerest hope is that awareness of inner silence remains a daily practice. It can be a permanent reconstruction within our daily habits that stirs the heart. It can be a time to regularly whisper the words of reflection and soul accountability. It can be a contrast to the sound of the shofar when we welcome sound blasts that stir peace in the hearts of all humanity.
However, everyone is experiencing the increased sound of silence and the returning increase of sound. I sincerely believe that the purpose of the 29 days of Elul are gifts we should practice all year.
K’tiva VaHatima Tova
May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year!