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Welcome to Elul Enlightenments, a series of short reflections, stories, and commentaries by Adat Shalom members, all focused on preparing for the Days of Awe. This year’s theme, “Letting Go, Starting Anew,” riffs on the line featured in our High Holiday announcements: “Tikhleh Shanah vKil’k’loteha; Takhel Shanah u’Vir’khoteha, The Year’s Challenges Cease; The New Year’s Blessings Begin.” As we contemplate the year that is ending, we recall our struggles – with others, with situations, and perhaps most of all with ourselves. As we look ahead to a new year, we hope for the blessing of a better year, a better world, a better self. We must let go of the past in order to start anew...

3 Elul 5778/ August 14, 2018

Walking With Fresh Eyes
By Camilla Day

For Elul, I am pleased to share a wonderful walking meditation from Sylvia Boorstein’s book, Don’t Just Do Something, SIT THERE. I chose this exercise because it is directly focused on helping us change our perspective. (As an added plus, this meditation involves movement and encourages-although does not require-us to go outside!)

Take a walk, outdoors or in, whatever seems best, on a route that goes somewhere but that isn’t directed. In other words, don’t decide where the turnaround point will be before you start out. That way the walk can be an unfolding surprise. See everything with fresh eyes.

Suzuki Roshi, a wonderful Japanese Zen teacher who established the San Francisco Zen Center, described “beginner’s mind” as that capacity of the mind which is able to experience each moment as entirely new. He said that this element of expectant interest inclines the mind toward understanding. I think what Suzuki Roshi meant is that our vision is limited when we become habituated to seeing life a certain way, and that limited vision is what keeps truth hidden from us.

Walk with “beginners mind.” See everything with fresh eyes.


2 Elul 5778/ August 13, 2018

Revisiting Our Path to Purpose
By Donald Zauderer

          Our lives are so cluttered with everyday responsibilities we hardly recognize time is passing. Many of us often neglect to ask, “What are we doing with our lives?” The high holidays provide an opportunity for soul searching, self- examination, and repentance. Maimonides wrote, “Awaken you sleepers from your slumber…examine your deeds, return in repentance, and remember your creator.” During this important holiday many of us think about regrets in our personal lives -- our dysfunctional pattern of interactions with a child, parent, significant other, client, or colleague. We may also harbor feelings of guilt for not doing more to support an ailing parent or friend. Concerns such as these are important, but there are some overarching questions Richard Leider encourages us to ask: “Are we living our values in a way that contributes to the world? Are we allowing ourselves to be used for a larger purpose?” (The Power of Purpose)

          Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning describes how he helped fellow prisoners at Auschwitz find meaning in survival. Some wanted to live to tell their Holocaust story, to reunite with any family survivors, or to compose a concerto. From his observations, those who found a sense of meaning were far more likely to survive. Frankl presents the challenge we face in this quote:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves, and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. . .Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

          Frankl’s words became particularly important to me when I was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1980. I was terrified! Would I be there to pay for Karin and Laura’s college expenses? Would my family be able to remain in the home they loved? Who would provide emotional support to my wife and children after I succumb to the disease?

          What was life expecting of me? The answer was clear. I must do everything in my power to support my family until the last breath of air left my body. I asked my friends with different expertise to help the family when I was gone. I began to augment my university salary by starting a consulting practice that provided additional income and the satisfaction of helping organizations function at a higher level. I also wanted to further build an enduring professional legacy in my teaching and writing.

          Why was I able to survive under the most challenging medical circumstances? I don’t think we can completely understand all the factors, but I can say with certainty that having a dominant sense of meaning and a relentless will played a role in my survival.

          My children are now grown and are living very successful lives. And while family remains paramount in my life, I am blessed with the opportunity to find meaning in many new ways. I continue to ask the question: Where can my aptitudes, values, and interests be aligned with a compelling life purpose? The high holidays provide me with the opportunity to quiet my inner thoughts and reexamine the health of my purpose in the Hebrew year 5779. I hope it does for you as well.


1 Elul 5778/ August 12, 2018

Letting Go & Starting Anew
By Sherry Linkon

Several times in recent years, I have followed mailing lists or websites that share insights or pose questions to prompt reflection during Elul. I like how they remind me to stop and take time to think. They also encourage me to appreciate how the cycle of the year offers yet another chance to take stock and make change. Reading and sometimes writing in response to what I read helps me prepare for the Holidays, making them more meaningful.

Coordinating Elul Enlightenments this year gave me the chance to start that process even earlier, reviewing the pieces you’ll see over the next month as they arrived in my inbox, starting mid-July. I’ve noticed a few patterns in these pieces. Many of us are wrestling with internal concerns, questions about our own attitudes, feelings, and day-to-day behaviors, while for others, letting go and starting over brings to mind bigger life changes – rethinking a career or a long-term relationship. And in this period of social turmoil, some of us are looking to the state of the world and our responsibilities as citizens and human beings. Through all of these pieces run threads of regret and hope, appreciation and loss. There’s another tension, too – between what we can control and what is beyond our power.

Whether we look inside or out to others and the world, we encounter a mix of emotions and insights. The year that is ending brought challenges, but also blessings. Ahead, we know, even as we hope for blessings, we must prepare for difficulties. These tensions, insights, and the complexity of our lives connect us, as human beings and as members of a community.

Over the next month, we’ll share a new Elul Enlightenments piece almost every day. You can or look for regular updates on the listserv. I hope these stories and reflections invite you to take time to think about your life, to let go of last year’s errors and difficulties and prepare to start anew, and to remember that whatever your own challenges and blessings, you are not alone.


Here are the PDF versions of all Elul Enlightenments 5778:
1 Elul 5778/ August 12, 2018: Letting Go & Starting Anew – Sherry Linkon

2 Elul 5778/ August 13, 2018: Revisiting Our Path to Purpose – Donald Zauderer

3 Elul 5778/ August 14, 2018: Walking with Fresh Eyes – Camilla Day


If you would like to read last year's (2017/5777) Elul Enlightenments, please click here.