So for us Jews this shabbat just past is a mystical thing, at least I think so. It was a Rosh Chodesh, a shabbat of the new month and new moon, traditionally celebrated particularly by women for historically and physically obvious reasons. This Rosh Chodesh shabbat was especially meaningful for both a communal reason and a personal reason.
Communally, this Rosh Chodesh marked the start of the month of elul the month that brings us to the high holy days. A month in which personal reflection, the repairing of wrongs and a renewal of faith are the focus of our attention. We are reminded to look at our physical selves, our emotional selves and our spiritual selves. What a lovely idea, a whole month of intensive reflection and self assessment.
During this time we are reading the final book of the Torah, the book of Deuteronomy which is filled with choices of all kinds. And we have the choice at this time, and all the time really, to engage in this kind of reflection and assessment. In the traditional sense we choose, at this time of year, to “atone” for whatever wrongs we have committed throughout the year. In our family we always talked about amends, about saying you are sorry, about acting differently to make up for bad behavior. So that each year we become just a little better selves.
Personally, this was a special shabbat for me as I watched one of my wonderful students become Bat Mitzvah. I have taught her for several years, or more accurately, we have taught one another. She is beautiful, different, independent and smart and it gives me great joy to have learned and celebrated with her. She made a choice to stand for herself and for those that came before. She made a choice to share her learning with all of us and to make a public commitment to certain values and identity.
What an amazing and appropriate way to celebrate not only the Rosh Chodesh but also the start of this most personal and mystical month of elul. Beginnings as she takes on the moral obligations of Judaism. Beginnings as the moon begins again. Beginnings as we review, assess and leave behind the past, starting our year anew with G-d’s blessing. Beginnings as the circle of Torah comes to a close and will begin again, reliably, just as the moon will rise again each month.
Kein y’hi ratzon – Be this G-d’s will.