Today is the first day of Elul (although Rosh Chodesh began yesterday for reasons that are, well, complicated. For me and my daughters, it was also the first day of school. I’m exceptionally thoughtful and deliberate at the start of the school year, both as a kindergarten teacher and as a mom. In my classroom I’m careful to teach every routine and every transition, as well as how to use every material and classroom space. We review the procedures over and over again until they are second nature – until the children have really taken them to heart. As a mom, I get a fresh start with my kids. I think about which parts of their daily needs will become their responsibility instead of mine, what bedtimes and wake times will be set, and what new rights and privileges I will bestow on my one-grade-older daughters. I’m patient and mindful, because the school year’s only just begun, and while I may be exhausted, I’m not fried.
While I put this much effort into renewal each school year, I have never, ever taken the renewal of the Jewish New Year anywhere near as seriously. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it as well, maybe it’s because the benefits and consequences aren’t as immediate or as obvious, or maybe it’s just because I’m a much better teacher and mother than I am a Jew. On the other hand, I’m not sure starting the Jewish year should be as hard as starting the school year. I’d love to hear your thoughts, as always.