Rabbi K’vod Wieder
There is a midrash that the month of Elul that precedes the High Holy Days is the time that Moses went up the mountain after the sin of the Golden Calf to pray for forgiveness for the people, and get the next set of tablets. The original profound moment at Mount Sinai was not just that the Israelites experienced the revelation of God, but that once they were exposed to the Divine awe, they chose to enter into covenant, into relationship with God. This choosing of relationship is likened to a great wedding where the Israelites committed to living with the Great Source of All Life.
When Moses didn’t return from the mountain at the time they expected, in their fear and insecurity, the Israelites built a Golden Calf, trying to derive some comfort and connection from an inanimate object and a deity that had never served them in Egypt. They sought immediate gratification and denied the very relationship they had committed to.
Moses’s work on the mountain was to repair the relationship with God that was broken by the Israelite idolatry. We can only imagine how Moses helped God shift perspective from judgement and destruction to reconciliation and forgiveness. In this month of Elul, each of us have the opportunity to repair our relationships with each other and with God. We don’t wait until Yom Kippur to begin this process, but engage the inner process and outer conversations necessary to experience our covenant and connection with each other. It’s important to realize that apologies are not enough. In the words of the popular young child cartoon character, Daniel Tiger – “Saying sorry is the first step, then how can I help.” We need to go beyond apologies to dialoguing with others to find see what they need in order to feel connected with us. Whether with God or with other people, they need to feel that our covenant/relationship together is important enough that we are willing to change behavior to honor our connection together.