Elul Reflections 23 – September 14

Rabbi Stephen J. Einstein

The Olympics are coming to LA in 2028!  This is big news for our region.  I remember the 1984 Olympics.  I was so fortunate that I was serving as a Camp Rabbi that summer at Camp Hess Kramer, and the entire camp was privileged  to  attend an Olympics soccer match, held at the Rose Bowl.  Truly, it was an unforgettable experience.

One of the things that makes the Olympics so special is the they occur only once every four years.  (Since the Summer and Winter Olympics alternate, we actually have Olympics excitement every other year.)

Athletes around the world prepare literally for years in order to earn a spot on an Olympics team.  No one achieves the level of excellence required without intensive preparation.

In a way, for Jews, the High Holy Days are our Spiritual Olympics. It always surprises me, therefore,  when our people expect something “big” to happen on these special holidays if they haven’t adequately prepared for them.  In fact, this is what the month of Elul is all about.  It is prep time for our Jewish Olympics.

How can we prepare?  Here are a couple of  ways that Jews have prepared for the High Holy Days for several centuries: One tradition is to sound the Shofar each morning.  Now, there is something that will get you right into the Holy Day spirit! Another custom is to read Psalm 27.  You may find this meditation will help you get focused.

For some of us, pulling out recipes for our favorite Rosh Hashanah foods is a must.  For others, a trip to the cleaners with our Talit is de rigueur.  Still others are making sure they have yahrzeit candles in stock for remembering loved ones on Yom Kippur.  And, of course, attendance at S’lichot services will surely get us to the right place.

These days, many people will take the opportunity to read an Elul gem sent via email from their synagogue—a short thought that moves us along the path of teshuvah/return.  

I know one person who can’t conceive of Rosh Hashanah arriving without first completing a trip to Sephora…and that’s ok, too.


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