I got a nice note the other day from the folks at Craig 'n Co. announcing the third year of their 'Jewels of Elul' project.
"Beginning August 15, on each of the 29 days of Elul, we will post a 'Jewel' of an inspiration from an amazing group of individuals. From Deepak Chopra to the Dalai Lama and Kirk Douglas to Matisyahu, these wonderful people will share their thoughts on 'Hope and Healing'."According to the tradition, Elul is the "the time that Moses spent on Mount Sinai preparing the second set of tablets after the incident of the golden calf (Ex. 32; 34:27-28)" and is a time of repentance leading up to the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. (see Judaism101, OU.Org, or Chabbad.Org for more Elul)
The "Jewels" website has the last two years worth of essays. Reading through it's clear that it's a mixed bag of personalities and perspectives. I'm not sure they constitute the best of Jewish wisdom and didn't find many of them that moving, but a couple of them really grabbed me. My favorite was the essay for Elul 28, 5765 (2005) titled "Godsong" by Ellen Dreskin, cantor and director of programs for Synagogue 3000.
"Midrash tells us that our name, Yisrael, when vocalized differently, can become "Yashir Eil" - "God will sing." We are God's song in this world. Full of potential for harmony - tension, joy, sorrow, anger, comfort, pain, and majesty - God sings through each of us. Elul is the time to focus and question: what Godsong will be heard through my life in the coming year?
Chasidic wisdom likens each of us to a shofar. Were it not for the breath of God blowing through me, I would make no sound at all. Elul is the time to tune up, sharpen our skills, and be a song that is worthy of being heard.
The shofar is narrow at the beginning and wide at the end. May we remember to begin with ourselves, and then open our hearts and our ears and our eyes to understand that we too can be bigger - we can be wider - and our smallest actions can make a huge difference in the world.
"Yashir Eil." Be the song; make it good. Awaken others - with your voice and your gifts and your actions - to sing out also, and give honor to the Composer of it all."