Sunday, August 22, 2004

As Velveteen Rabbi reminds us, we are now in the Jewish month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah in the calendar. (Rosh Hashanah falls on the first and second days of Tishrei, the month after Elul). As I look out my window tonight, I can see the moon, a little less than half of it lit up. Rosh Hodesh Elul (the New Moon and beginning of Elul) was last Tuesday. This month is traditionally a time of preparation for what in English are inelegantly called the High Holidays, but in Hebrew are called the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe. The Days of Awe mark the turning of the year, when Jews are supposed to investigate their deeds and engage in teshuvah, or repentance. During Elul, traditionally, penitential prayers called selichot begin to be recited, the shofar is blown every morning, and a psalm is added to the liturgy: Psalm 27. It contains many beautiful lines, including,

One thing I ask of God,
Only that do I seek:
To live in the house of God
All the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of God,
To frequent his sanctuary.

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