6 Elul 5774
By Scott Friedman
Why Should We Care?
It happens every year. Many of us need to look at a calendar to know exactly when it will occur, but we do not question the fact it will eventually happen. I am not writing about Hanukkah with its multiple spellings and many days of giving or receiving gifts, nor am I writing about the anxiety, excitement, or dread of going back to school. This article is about what happens during the month of Elul.
As we know from Wikipedia, the source of usually quotable Jewish wisdom, during the month of Elul we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. At first, I thought the Wikipedia guideline would be easy to follow. However, I quickly realized I was paralyzed by unknown answers to two questions. Perhaps, you have the same questions.
- What does it mean to “prepare” for a Holy day?
- How is preparation relevant today, or relevant to us?
After reading many articles I found by Googling, I concluded preparation for Rosh Hannah and Yom Kippur required us to “prepare our hearts and minds.” Since definitions which include the defined word are not very helpful, I visited the site I should have gone to in the first place, www.tbsoc.com, typed the word “Elul” into the search field on the upper right side of the screen, and then pressed the [Enter] button to search.
Understanding the meaning of “preparation,” enabled me to question its relevance. Why should we care about preparation? As I thought about the answer, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. The answer eluded me until I saw a poster on Facebook. According to the poster, “six plus three equals nine, but so does five plus four. The way you do things is not always the only way to do them. Respect other people’s way of thinking.”
In case there are people who doubt, or do not understand, the connection between two simple math formulas and preparation for the year’s holiest days, I’ll finish the article with a brief explanation. Growing, distributing, delivering, and selling food all require math to measure time, distance, temperature, presentation, and cost. The conscious and subconscious use of math makes eating possible. In the same way, math helps us prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by showing us it is possible to arrive at a conclusion in more than one way. In other words, “preparation” in its simplest form is acceptance of the belief we may have overreacted to past events that were simply a different approach to doing something we wanted to accomplish. Understanding the source of conflict is necessary for reconciliation and forgiveness. We cannot ask for forgiveness unless we understand conflict occurred and why it occurred.
Scott, this meditation is so well conceived and written. I saw that same math example on face book last week or month ago that you described. You used it so well to prove your point.
Thank you for taking the time to write this meaningful “Echoes of Elul” for all of us.