By Dr. Terry Segal / tsegal@atljewishtimes.com

Dr. Terry Segal

Dr. Terry Segal

Rosh Chodesh Elul begins at sundown Friday, Aug. 14. During Elul we’re gifted with the opportunity to turn away from actions that don’t serve and toward connection with our deeper selves, HaShem and our community. We take stock, cleanse our spirits and realign with our highest purpose.

The holidays are the blank pages in the new notebook offering a fresh start. We choose how to fill those pages to repair what is broken.

The Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) offers a perspective that helps us find our way through the maze. Elul’s Hebrew letter is yud, Zodiac sign is Virgo, tribe is Gad, sense is action, and controlling limb is the left hand.

Yud is the smallest letter of the Aleph Bet. It’s unpretentious, unadorned and humbled, as are we in the presence of HaShem. At this time of year, HaShem is said to be the most accessible to all, “sitting in the field,” ready to hear and receive each of us as we wrestle with our wretched and then transformed truths, making peace and amends with ourselves, G-d and others.

Virgo is the sign of the virgin, one who is untouched. This is the state to which we wish to return. We cleanse and purify our spirits through teshuvah as we turn away from thoughts and behaviors that have caused us to miss the mark the past year and set our intention to move toward a re-envisioned picture of ourselves. We become as pure as virgins or newborn babies.

Those born under this sign are observant, analytical, precise, helpful and reliable. They’re straight thinkers and problem-solvers who can find the needle in the haystack. Out of balance, they can be inflexible and picky and appear cold and indifferent. As at Passover, when we sought out crumbs with a candle and feather, during Elul we need this level of scrutiny to search our souls.

We can’t be emotionless, however. We must experience our feelings, or we are not fully plugged into life.

The tribe is Gad, which means luck or good fortune. Gad was Jacob’s seventh son, thought to be an intuitive healer, born to Zilpah, Leah’s handmaiden. This tribe was granted the only land handed out by Moses just before his death and before the Israelites had crossed the Jordan. Gad settled on the eastern side and later became one of the lost tribes.

Action is the sense of Elul. As we tend to the repair and redirection of our souls, we also focus on the tools that support our actions to ensure they’re in working order. Mezuzot should be properly affixed to our doors and tefillin intact.

Rituals help us answer the call to action. We hear the piercing sound of the shofar to rouse us from complacency. We speak of G-d’s light, our salvation and enlightenment, with the daily addition of the 27th chapter of Psalms before morning and afternoon prayers. During the last 12 days of Elul, we reflect and make peace with the months of the year. Each day we select a different month for contemplation.

The left hand is the controlling limb. In energetic circuitry, the future, or approaching energy, is received through the left arm. The right arm is concerned with the past and energy leaving the body. The chakra in the elbow of the left arm must be clear so creative energy can flow unrestricted. The intentions set for the future merge with creativity that passes from the hand, through the elbow, and up the arm to connect to the heart. This is how change occurs.

Meditation Focus

“On your mark, get set, go!” Where is your mark? Are you standing securely on it? How can you align yourself with divine essence? What has taken you off your mark in the past year? What actions can you put in place to arrive at your destination in case those same behavioral patterns, temptations and outside forces present themselves to thwart you? What will you do differently this year to bring HaShem’s light to the world? May each of us be written and inscribed for a good and sweet year.