My Beloved is Mine

My Beloved is Mine

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

With all the news, lately, it might have slipped your memory that the Hebrew month of Elul has begun. What’s Elul, you ask? It’s the Hebrew month that precedes Tishrei, the first day of which is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5783. Elul has intrigued us for centuries. It is, after all, the last month of the Jewish year before we begin the Ten Days of Repentance, or the Days of Awe.

From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we begin an introspective period of accounting of our deeds and atoning for our sins. Such an obligation, the weightiest of all, you might say, requires some preparation. So, Elul has been treated as an on-ramp to the place where we stand before God and our community to make amends and make new promises for the New Year.

Elul, the rabbis taught, can also be read as an acronym. Each of the Hebrew letters in Elul (אלול) can become the first letters of “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li,” (אני לדודי ודודי לי), a verse from Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible (6:3). The verse means, “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” The acronym isn’t just coincidental. It highlights the theme of Song of Songs, which is an allegory of the love that God has for the people Israel. Therefore, the month is wrapped up in, interlaced with, and embraced by God’s love for our people and the expectations that, though Tishrei is for repentance and introspection, we should anticipate that God’s love will outweigh God’s judgment.

Though it would seem that God loves the righteous more, we would be wrong. We’re only human; therefore, God loves those who enter broken, who make amends, and who leave forgiven and hopeful. This process is the way we become the persons we were created to be. I don’t prefer to say that we become the best “versions of ourselves.” It makes it sound like we shed our skin like a reptile, or we upgrade our firmware like a router. We were created with great potential and we’re the product of our life experiences. One of those crucial experiences is the process of “teshuvah,” or repentance, that enables us, in our humility, to acknowledge what we failed to do, knowingly and unknowingly, and that we’re prepared to do better if we’re faced with the same or similar set of circumstances, again.  Our Judaism assures us that God does not seek the death of the sinner; rather, that the sinner should repent and live (cf Ezekiel 18:23 & 33:11).

Such personal human hopefulness is a reason to prepare for High Holy Days without trepidation. The process is meant to be weighty, but the outcome is already tipped in our favor. In response to our prayers, God says, “I pardon as you have asked” (Numbers 14:20). Ultimately, God is waiting for us. Are we ready to enter into God’s holy place and make amends, together? We have the whole month of Elul to prepare. But when the Ten Days of Repentance begin and we’re not prepared, the rabbis also taught that God meets us where we are to help us come the rest of the way.

Ready or not, I’ll see you at High Holy Days, which begin on Sunday night, September 25, 2022, in the sanctuary at Congregation Beth Israel and on livestream. 


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