1st of Elul

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).


1st of Elul – Wednesday, August 31st


It still feels likes summer outside. Yet, as we begin the Hebrew month of Elul, the heads and hearts of Jews around the world begin to turn towards the Fall. Elul is the month that immediately precedes the Hebrew month of Tishrei, the start of the Jewish year. Tishrei is the month that is home to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.  With so much to celebrate it only makes sense that we begin our preparations a full month in advance. We begin to turn toward the themes and messages, the prayers and the music, the reflection and the actions that demand our attention. This season helps us to appreciate the sweet blessings of the New Year, the power of change on Yom Kippur, our responsibility to care for God’s creation on Sukkot, and the continual gift of Torah on Simchat Torah.  We may not yet feel the seasonal weather turn outside, but inside, throughout the week, and especially on Shabbat, we feel the tone of our days change as our spiritual and intellectual preparations begin.

Over the month of Elul, we will send spiritual reflections and questions. We will explore our awakening to:

  • The pursuit of Teshuvah, renewal
  • Connecting to the strength of a kehillah, our community
  • Celebrating the oneg, the joy of the season

Cultivating balance, personal prayer and worship.

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Elul- A Time To Reflect

Beginning today, 1 Elul 5771 / August 31, 2011, I will be posting messages each day during the month of Elul. My hope is that you will take a few minutes each day to read these inspirational, reflective messages.

These daily Elul messages are the product of a cooperative venture by Rabbis Asher Knight (Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas), Bradley Levenberg (Temple Sinai, Atlanta, Georgia), Jason Nevarez (Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, New York), and David N. Young (Temple Sinai, Miami, Florida).

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Hour As A Cowboy

Vacationing this week in Arizona has been a wonderful experience.  Not only is it my first time experiencing the southwest but I have also has a passing interest and curiosity in the Old West.  Though not an expert in any sense of the word on the topic, I have enjoyed learning about personalities like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid, Doc Holiday and Wild Bill.  I have seen the movies- Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, Young Guns 1 and 2, etc.- and I watched each episode of Deadwood.

All this is an introduction to illustrate my glee when my brother-in-law suggested that, while in Sedona, we take a morning and go horseback riding.  I did not have to be asked twice.

The scenery was beautiful and our horses were walking single-file, making conversation a bit more challenging but giving rise to other opportunities.  And so I reflected upon our past, and the movies and shows I had seen, and the wonder and majesty of the Arizona desert.  Needless to say, I walked away with some profound lessons- none of them new, by the way, but each of them demonstrated anew and I am filled with a fresh desire to implement them.

Lesson 1: Know the Horse

Each horse has a different personality- some are gentle and some are wild, some are tame and some feel restricted by the saddle (and, no doubt, the weight resting on the saddle).  I asked our wrangler about the horse upon which I was riding and he gave me insight which made the ride all the more enjoyable.  For example, learning that the horse is young and a bit unfamiliar with the terrain led me to maneuver the horse more gently, to ease up on the reins and let the horse feel his way along the path.  I imagine that if I were to push the horse to move faster, to drift off of the path, the horse would have been scared and may have reacted in ways I could not have predicted.  But patience and understanding made all the difference.  I only hope that I can apply those same disciplines to professional situations- taking the time to understand the complexities of those with whom I work instead of remaining focused solely on my own agenda.  I imagine that kind of leadership- taking the time to know, to really know, our partners along the journey- will aid in meeting success each and every time.


Lesson 2: Know the Terrain

Not knowing the path of our journey was exciting, for sure; but it was also nerve-wracking.  I could not see where we were going, from where we came, and could not chart a course accordingly.  Vision- both forward reaching and reflecting backwards- are instrumental in filling me with a sense of purpose, mission, and managing my own expectations.  That said, it was inspiring to let go of the plan and just “go with it” for even an hour.  And when our tour came to an end, I truly felt as if it had just begun.


Lesson 3: Look Up

Riding along it would have been so easy- so easy- just to look down at the trail, to make sure the horse was on the path, to anticipate where I needed to lean- whether we were going uphill and I needed to lean forward or going downhill and needing to recline.  But I had only looked down, I have missed some of the most beautiful and profound landscapes I have ever seen.  The message is to look up- to look up from our tasks, to look upon our technology, to look up- and see the wonder of the world all around us.


As I continue along this relaxing and inspiring vacation, I know that the best is yet to come: The Grand Canyon.  With these three lessons in mind, I feel that I am spiritually poised to make the most of my remaining days in Arizona.  And I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day will bring.


Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment