Solemn month of Elul is all about introspection, going through the last year’s events and getting ready for the new year ahead. There are as much as four New Years in Hebrew/Kabbalistic tradition and added the Western Calendar – all of it could just seem bit over the top… It is not so, there is enough room and it is indeed meaningful to be aware and prepare for all of them.
Personally, to me Civil NY by Western calendar is more like a mark of my work, what i do and where i am with my career, where as by Hebrew/Kabbalistic calendar i measure my inner, psychological time.
Rosh Hashana, accurately or not translated as a Jewish New Year, is a chance for all of us – regardless of the religious denomination, Jewish or not – to reset the movies of our lives, to write the new script if needed – and even to hire a new cast if the production so far wasn’t going as planned.
Do not forget that it is us who are the directors – the Light (kabbalist’s euphemism for Creator) through outer circumstances provides us the movie studio so to say and the cast – but, at the end of things, it is us who direct the movies of our lives, so let’s get ready to make the next year’s movie – an Academy Award material!
The days of Elul are also known as the days of Teshuva or repentance, which etymologically comes from LaShuv לשוב – to return, meaning the return to our own selves and our own inner truth. There is nothing to lose on the way – except for suffering and pain which we hope to leave behind as we approach the new beginning.
It is said that at Rosh Hashanah planets align as they were in the moment of creation and that thus we are given the chance to start anew, from the scratch – it is here that we reboot our system and restart our lives.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov was pointing out that Hebrew word for correction – tikkun תיקון – has the same letters as tinok תינוק – a baby; and that very state of innocence and purity is the one we are striving for on our journey through the Month of Elul… and that’s the purpose of creation itself, according to the Kabbalists.
As you probably know by now, in Kabbalah the 22 Hebrew letters are considered to be energies (angels) that created this world and letters.
Reish is linked to higher states of consciousness and it starts the word for Holy Spirit, ruach ha-kadosh; it also starts the word ruach, denoting wind and breath.
Rabbi Moses Luzzato pointed out that albeit it is ordained that one should naturally be able to teach himself, understand and reason with their intellect – there is another mean of gaining knowledge and that’s what we call ruach ha-kadosh – the way of gaining knowledge unattainable through logic alone.
Focusing on letter Reish and also setting aside some time every day to practice breath awareness will bring tremendous benefits during month of Elul and enable us to connect to these higher state states of consciousness where both prophetic abilities and spiritual bliss reside.
To study and practice kosher Kabbalah might seem demanding because it is a way of living, a way of eating, and – before all – it’s the very awareness, the consciousness one imbues into every single word that comes out of their mouth and, last but not the least – into every single thing they put into their mouth; it comes naturally though, usually – gradually, and for many it is the only way, because you feel it is the right way for you, personally.
That being said – not all will feel that urge and it simply means they don’t need it at this level of development or in this period of time, but there are still amazing benefits and advantages we can get from the Month of Virgo – even if we apply only some of the spiritual tools available in this month and even if we can’t really be bothered with somewhat complicated dietary laws and all that jazz.
There are two out of 72 Names of God – the sequence by which it is believed Moses had parted the Red Sea – that are recommended for this period (scanned from right to left):
An alternative way to practice Teshuva, as thought in tradition of the famed Kabbalist Isaac the Blind, which doesn’t involve the letters per se – is when you go to bed, to recall and remember every single event of the preceding day and all the things you said while – if possible, imagining that you are in the place of the person to whom you spoke, that you are them. Most of us go through life – better to say – schlep, in the perpetual state of dormita, asleep, not being aware of the effect of our own words and deeds; Teshuva is the way to reverse that and to become awaken.
I can’t recommend strongly enough the book by Catherine Shainberg PhD – Kabbalah and the Power of Dreaming; beside detailed instructions for the above mentioned practice of Teshuva, it also includes what’s probably the best available manual for lucid dreaming and many other techniques to reverse the unwanted events and developments in our lives.
It’s being said that the name of the month is the abbreviation of אני לדודי ודודי לי “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3), because it is during this very month that we can connect to the love story between the soul and the Creator. In words of Shaul Youdkevitch: “Since we all get some of Virgo’s virtues during Elul, it is the time to review, cleanse and redecorate our thoughts and feelings. Let us use Virgo to return to ourselves and gain freedom from all emotions and thoughts that keep us away from perfection.”