Rosh Chodesh Elul began Wednesday, Aug. 23. I’m approaching the new year on the Hebrew calendar by changing up the focus of my column. It remains New Moon Meditations, but I’ll be gearing it toward women and our role in keeping the flames of Judaism alive for ourselves and our families.
It begins with awareness and self-care. Stopping to acknowledge the monthly new moon is a great start.
I’ll start by sharing my experience as a founding facilitator of a Rosh Chodesh women’s spirituality group at a local temple. We had a core group of about 25 women, with additional friends coming and going as they could each month. I adored these women.
Among them was my then-89-year old mother, now of blessed memory, who didn’t miss a meeting in the four years that I led it. The women ranged in age from 18 to 89, and on those nights that we gathered, there was no separation by age or life experience. Each woman brought her own light to the meeting, literally and figuratively.
We began by lighting a candle to usher in the new month, remembering our matriarchs. We would each say our Hebrew name, daughter of our mother’s Hebrew name, daughter of our grandmother’s Hebrew name, etc., for as far back as each of us knew.
I invite you to consider this practice as well. It marks the beginning of each month by setting it apart from all the other days and honoring the important women who have gone before us to pave the path.
Then I offered a brief summary of the Hebrew month, with a related theme, which I will do here. We had a discussion, often engaged in making a craft or other experiential sharing, before ending with a meditation and refreshment related to the month.
I’d love to make this a “thing” where we meet here monthly at the new moon, whether online or in the pages of the paper, in our virtual tent, to light a candle, quiet ourselves, focus on the essence of the month, join in shared experience and enjoy a refreshment.
So here we go into Elul 5777.
Teshuvah Leads to a Different Path
During Elul, we concern ourselves with turning away from thoughts and behaviors that took us off the mark during the year we’re completing. Repentance is only one aspect of the work to be done. It involves regret and making amends to Hashem and to our fellow humans. Beyond that is choosing a path of thought or behavior to replace the misaligned one.
Because the Jewish new year is such a powerful marker of time, let’s consider how you spent your time in the past year. As you reflect, what consumed the majority of your time?
Were you caring for an aging parent or children, doing volunteer work, or pursuing a course of study? Did you work too much or not enough?
Maybe time passed and you don’t feel as if you were in charge of it. Perhaps you feel as if you wasted time on things that didn’t truly matter to you. Maybe you spent too much time in service to others and forgot about caring for yourself, or it might be the opposite of that.
Make a pie chart and divide it into the various ways you parceled your precious time. Suggestions for your pie slices include relationships (family, friendships); work (paid, volunteer, creation of a business); study; caring for others/self; play time with others/self; and religious observance (Shabbat, prayer, services, study, social gatherings, rituals, holidays).
What percentage of your time was spent indoors vs. outdoors? How much attention was paid to healthy meals, including planning, shopping, cooking and mindful eating?
A hard look at your time management may bring up some anxiety. Let’s quell it.
Envision how you’d like to spend your time in the coming year, in a more balanced way, on things that matter to you.
Then enjoy an apple dipped in honey for a sweet year.