Elul is here

As the holidays draw near, a few thoughts on getting ready. For many of us, getting ready is practical. We make sure we have our tickets; we arrange meals. Families figure out their travel plans. Otherwise, we are busy with everything else we do.

Yet Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur invite spiritual preparation as much or more than the practical. The details give us a place to hide. We feel ready for the holiday because the table is set, but the inner work never happened.

Now is the time to hear the sound of the shofar. To get ready so that the holidays can be filled with meaning and a time where we actually change ourselves for the better. I suggest a few thought or journaling exercises to figure out your curriculum for this new year. These are all hard questions, so I urge you spend some time on each. Perhaps allocate 30 minutes for each question, starting with sitting quietly to organize your thoughts, then to write or think, and to conclude again with a minute or two of quiet and reflection.

  1. What are two or three values for you at this point in your life? Why are they important to you? In what ways do you act on them? Mitzvot are actions associated with Torah values. What are the mitzvot associated with your values?
    • Do you feel good about your values? Are there values you hold but don’t act on? If you were to imagine yourself in a year looking back again, what might you add / remove to give yourself a greater feeling of living a values driven life?
  2. Take a look at your calendar. If you use a tool like google calendar, or a paper organizer, spend some time reviewing how you spent your time last year. Perhaps look in detail at a week or two, or randomly pick a few weeks throughout the year. On what did you focus? How much time was allocated to your values?
    • Do you feel good about the way your spent your time, or do you feel captured by your calendar? Idolatry takes on many forms. When our schedules begin to own us, we are dominated by the work of our own hands and find no meaning there. What would allow future you to feel like the schedule was a tool to bring your own blessings and values into the world?
  3. Take a look at your budget. Ask some of the same questions. On what did you spend money? For what are you saving? Does your budget feel in line with your values?
    • Dollars are the currency of desire. The way we spend money shows our desires in a tangible, physical way. Are you desiring in a way that feels meaningful to you? How can you tweak or even radically change your budget so that next year you can say: I used money and expressed desire in a way that match my values, aspirations and beliefs?

This time before Rosh Hashanah offers a gift. Let us use it well!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Booth

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