Dear Beth El Congregation,
When you receive this article we will be entering the month of Elul (Rosh Chodesh is on 8/31 and 9/1), the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah the start of a New Year. Commentators explain that the word Elul is an acronym for “Ani Ledodi Vedodi Lee” meaning “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me”. Implying that the month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a special time for us to come closer to our creator. It is an important time of reflection and introspection, a time to take an accounting of ourselves as to where we are in our spiritual life and to lay out a path for where we want to be spiritually in the future.
There is an interesting coincidence, or perhaps it is not such a coincidence, that the High Holydays fall in the Hebrew month of Tishrei. The sign of the Zodiac for this month (both in the Hebrew and secular calendar) is the scale otherwise known as Libra which begins September 23 to October 22. This is the time during which the High Holydays normally fall. Perhaps this is not a coincidence since as we know the High Holydays are very much about putting our actions of the past year on a scale. As we say in the High Holyday prayers “On Rosh Hashanah all is written and revealed and on Yom Kippur the course of every life is sealed”. Even on a less theological level, perhaps what the scale represents is balance. In other words, at least once a year it is good to take stock of our lives and if it is out of balance in any aspect it is a good time to bring balance back into it.
In our tradition, when we greet each other during the High Holy Days we say, “Shanah Tova Umetukah” — we wish a good and sweet year. A Chasidic sage asks why both a good and sweet year, since it is somewhat redundant. He gives a lovely answer. When we wish someone a “good” year we really do not know what we are wishing for because “good” can be a relative concept. What is good for one person might not be good for another. However, when we add “a sweet year” as well, it is far less ambiguous. Sweet is sweet; therefore we add the additional wish for a “sweet year,” a wish for a year which is clearly positively sweet.
Likewise I wish all our members and friends that you may all be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy, and sweet new year. I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you over the holiday season, in the year to come, and to work together to make this a vibrant congregation.
Wishing all a Shanah Tova Umetukah,
Rabbi Cantor George Hirschfeld