Pirke Avot 3:20—Rabbi Akiva used to say: Everything is given on collateral, and a net is spread over all the living. The store is open, the Storekeeper extends credit, the ledger is open, the hand writes, and whoever wants to borrow may come borrow. The collectors make their rounds constantly every day, they collect from a person whether he realizes it or not, and they have what to rely upon. The judgment is true, and everything is prepared for the banquet [of Leviathan].”
August 17, 2018
6 Elul 5778
Shabbat Shoftim Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
The clock is ticking toward the Jewish New Year. Sunday evening, September 9th, is right around the corner. The Temple choir under the direction of Alex Marr is rehearsing. The Torah and Haftarah readers are set. High Holy Day bimah letters will go out soon. Sandy is preparing the Erev Rosh Hashanah oneg (with just a wee bit of help from me.) I have started going through the Mahzor to make sure I have the readings marked that I want to use, and I’ve started work on my sermons. The ritual of preparation for the holy days is well under way and before we know it, the holy season will be here.
Elul is the time on the Jewish calendar when we start thinking or at least when Judaism encourages us to start thinking about our lives. We think about yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We don’t always know what lies ahead, but by doing our work today we can prepare as best we can for the unknown mountains we may have to climb or the obstacles we may need to work our way around. When I go down to my workshop, I don’t just take a piece of wood and start cutting in anticipation that it will be right. I need to figure out a plan, the tools, or as it says on one of my Marc Adams School of Woodworking t-shirts, “Layout is everything.” I need to prepare and figure things out first. Life is preparation. What is my day going to be or my week ahead? What do I need to do to make it successful?
I’ve always believed that Jewish teaching and participation in Jewish life can help negotiate these unforeseen moments in life. The month of Elul is a time for us to do the work. It is the warm-up and stretching to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yet, Judaism is more than just those two holy days on the calendar. They are important. Many congregants, with friends and relatives, come to Temple at this time of year and take the holy days seriously, but Jewish living doesn’t stop there. The peace of Shabbat happens every week. There are more holy days and holidays to celebrate and commemorate. Judaism is a way of life that motivates us to do Tikkun Olam to help repair a broken world. There are many opportunities at Temple Israel or in the community at large to participate in acts of social action and justice. We are created in God’s image—b’tzelem Elohim—and Judaism motivates us to remember this with every act we do. The Torah and Rabbinic teaching offer us many sign posts and maps for this Jewish journey with outward and inward opportunities for holiness and a strong, good life. This is not just about observing mitzvot, but about embracing the totality of a Jewish life. Years ago, the Reform Jewish movement had a curriculum titled, “To See the World Through Jewish Eyes.” By looking at the world through the lens of our Jewish teachings, history and experiences, we can be prepared for what happens next whether it is tomorrow or down the path of our journey. We prepare today for what may happen tomorrow. I urge you to take the next three weeks and use this time to prepare.
When you light your Shabbat candles this week, light one and let it remind you to begin the preparation to help make the holy days meaningful. Light the other candle and let its light guide you on this journey.
Rabbi Jon Adland