Friday, 7 September 2012

Love and Elul

This Saturday night is our Slichot service. The music, the rhythms and themes of this Rosh Hashanah season make their annual debut. It will be a very special evening, 9:30pm at the Shul. All welcome. 

My diary is increasingly Rosh Hashanah focussed, but I’m spending Thursday evening with a group of twelve New London members getting married in the coming Hebrew year. And then on Sunday I have a Chuppah. All this wedding related activity, coupled with the two Chuppot Stephen and I officiated at last Sunday, adds up, as Led Zepplin would say, to a whole lotta love (not sure I’ve ever referenced Led Zepplin in a weekly message before!).

We are deep in the month of Elul. The classic Rabbinic play, in this month, is to equate the letters which spell Elul to the first letters of the most famous verse in the Song of Songs - Ani Ldodi Vdodi Li – I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. Elul is a time to consider love even without the, wonderful, profusion of wedding related diary entries.

Elul and love are connected, at their deepest place, in two ways, both associated with conceptions of Teshuvah. First there is the matter of apology and forgiveness. Love inspires a desire to apologies for the things we do which hurt the ones we love. There is a, frankly, childish, notion that it is somehow weak to apologise, a personal failing to admit failing. This is absurd, or perhaps more accurately something one might expect from a person out of love with the world. Measuring the quality of a person by the levels of sensitivity they demonstrate and the quality of relationships they create and maintain we should all apologise a lot more than we do.

Secondly there is a less well understood connection between Teshuvah and love. Too much attention is paid, particularly in the Yom Kippur liturgy, to our failings and shortfallings (we have sinned in this way, and that way and on the list goes). But the goal of Teshuvah is not to leave us snivelling in a corner beating our chests. The goal is to produce fuller, deeper, more trusting and more powerful relationships. I once asked a couple, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary,  what had changed for them over the past 50 years, ‘the opportunity to fall back in each other’s arms ever more trustingly’ – they said. Lucky people indeed. But this is goal of Tishrei, to come out of this month of love and fall back into the arms of our Creator, our people and our tradition and, if we are lucky enough, the arms of our lovers.

Shabbat Shalom


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