Preparing for the High Holidays – blogging the month of Elul

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the celebration of the new moon and the new month. The Hebrew month of Elul is a time for reflection, repentance, and preparation for Rosh Hashanah, which is now one month away. My e-friend Phyllis Sommer, aka the Ima on the Bima, is encouraging Jewish bloggers to “Blog Elul” – to use this month as a chance to do some thoughtful writing about these themes. It’s a super busy month for almost all of us – rabbis preparing sermons to wow the twice-a-year-jews and the regular attendees; teachers and educators setting up classrooms; parents helping children navigate the transition from summer to back-to-school mode. Still, I’m giving it a try. Check here for daily posts that relate in some small way to the countdown to the big old day of reckoning.


For me, the impending holiday comes with some anxiety. Just about now, I start worrying about what our family will actually *do* on Rosh Hashanah. How we will make it meaningful, joyful, and not-too-stressful for every one of us. I get a palpable feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I think about the shul part – my wanting to go, wanting it to be meaningful, knowing that it probably won’t be, my kids not wanting to go, kvetching about it being boring, my husband going along with whatever I ask him to for the first day, but not *that* happily, and, well, just managing it all. I asked readers on my facebook page how they handle the holiday and got a wonderful response from Tamara Ayalah. She gave me permission to excerpt it here.


I could never do the 5 or 6 hours of shul. I can’t do ANYTHING for that long a period of time, except sleep. We go to a fabulous reconstructionist shul, and there are so many options for services. My kids love going, they look forward to it. I agree, if you don’t like going to shul, you’ve got the wrong one. But if you don’t have a lot of options..

 When I was in CA, my husband (fiance then) and I went to shul for less than an hour – we didn’t like the service, so we left. We walked around LA together, talked about our plans for the future, our goals, went home, made blintz soufle together. Once nightfall came, we went out on the balcony and blew the shofar loud and clear. And a miracle happened….a minute later someone somewhere in LA blew theirs….and a minute later someone else did….and a minute later someone else did. It was so memorable and so beautiful, and it is definitely my favorite RH ever.


 EVERY Yom Kippur, we go to an apple orchard together as a family. It is so peaceful and quiet, no buildings or electrical wires anywhere. We pick apples, the little ones eat them, and we find a nice spot where we all sit down and apologize for the hurts we’ve caused in the last year and tell each other how we want to grow. Make Judaism work for you – not the other way around.

What do the holidays look like for you and your kids? How do you meet (or try to meet) everyone’s needs?

I’m closing with a video of the blowing of the shofar, because it’s a tradition to hear it every day this month, except shabbat and the last day of the month.

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