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08/18/2023 12:43:18 PM


“Say it ain’t so.”

Well, it is, and we have to respond properly.

I am referring, of course, to the fact that this past Thursday and Friday have been Rosh Hodesh of Elul. And that means…

Rabbis must make sure their sermons are properly prepared.

Hazzanim must make sure their voices and tunes are in the best shape.

Shofar blowers must practice making sure all of their teqiot, shevarim, and teru`ot are the proper length.

Gabbaim must know to whom to give aliyot.

Synagogue offices must make sure all the seats are sold.

Stores must be certain that they have the proper inventory of apples, honey, and all of the Rosh Hashanah foods.

And especially, for all of us, the month before Rosh HaShanah is the time to refine our “middot,” our actions, to become more meticulous in our mitsvot.

I have often pointed out that my favourite acronym for the month of elul is the verse from Sefer Shemot, parashat mishpatim, “‘ina leyado ve-samti lekha’ .” The first four letters of that phrase in Hebrew spell out the word Elul.

This verse refers to the establishment of  “cities of refuge,” for someone who kills accidentally.

And you might think, "what does that have to do with me? I never killed no one.” Well, besides the double negative that kills the English language, it seems to me that there is an important idea in that verse.

Let me explain: We are all good people.  We would never want to do any harm to anyone. Nevertheless, we often, without thinking, can say or do something that causes pain to someone else. I wrote the above words this past Sunday evening. And then, Monday morning, had to happen. Someone complained loudly that he had not received an aliya for some time. Now, our gabbaim are very nice people, and they would never intentionally want to hurt anyone’s feelings. does happen.

So, Elul is a time to carefully reflect on whatever we say or do, that we should not accidentally hurt anyone.

What is going on in Israel? The holy land, where prominent politicians and military figures are speaking and writing negative things about other Israelis: statements that, chas ve-shalom, could cause terrible harm to the State and to all of  the Jewish people. I’m sure that they mean well, but can’t they think about the terrible consequences of their words?

According to Rabbeinu Bahya, in his introduction to parashat Shofetim, the purpose of  this week’s parasha’s requirement to appoint judges is that by so doing, fair judgement will lead to peace, upon which the world exists. Perhaps a reasoned compromise on judicial reform!

May we all have a meaningful month of elul, as we prepare ourselves for Rosh HaShanah.

Shabbat shalom, Ketivah va-hatimah Tovah. A sweet and healthy year! A year when the politicians and judges in Israel can make judgements leading to peace, in the way of Rabbenu Bahya!

Rabbi Menahem White

Tue, May 21 2024 13 Iyyar 5784