We are three weeks away from Rosh Hashanah.
Every morning of the month of Elul we sound the shofar as an alarm call. Yom Teruah is coming. This is the time for alarm calls. The danger, of course, is that without such a summons we might simply sleep-walk through our lives.
‘Awake, awake, O sleepers from your sleep’ thunders Maimonedes, ‘arouse yourself from your slumbers and examine your deeds, return in repentance and remember your creator. Those of you who forget the truth in the follies of the moment and go astray the whole year in vanity and emptiness which neither profit nor save – look to your souls, improve your ways and works. Abandon, every one of you, your evil course and the thought that is not good.’ (MT Hil Teshuvah 3:4)
I suspect most contemporary Rabbis won’t be ladling out Maimonedes’ fire and brimstone, but his message and his challenge remain as fresh and apposite this year as last, and the year before that, and the year before that.
What have we been doing this past year that has been vain and empty?
How have we fallen asleep on the job of investing our lives with a value that transcends the follies of the moment?
Where are the possibilities for purifying our thoughts and improving our ways?
Welcome to Elul.
In the three weeks between now and Rosh Hashanah allow our tradition to wander through these questions with you. There are books to read. There are adult education classes and, of course, liturgy. Slichot is Saturday night 12th September. Or come to shul on Shabbat. Or just sit and take a moment to engage with the questions of this time. At stake, quite literally, is the quality of our lives in the year ahead.