Where is there greater capacity for love to grow? In unconditional acceptance, overlooking of flaws and an endless supply of compassion? Or is it in the careful accounting of ones actions, of the ways they are showing up, the commitment to do better?
Today begins the month of Elul, last month of the year before the Jewish New Year begins on Rosh Hashana. The work of Elul encompasses what seems to be two opposites. On the one hand, it is a month when the "King is in the Field" a phrase which refers to G-d's meeting us outside of His royal palace, with no entourage, just open loving arms, and a smiling countenance. As part of the courtship between the Jewish people and G-d in the days before we recommit to each other on Rosh Hashana, there is an open heartedness that is present and the ability to show up just as we are.
An acronym for the name of the month Elul is "Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li - I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me". On the other hand, there is a solemnity in Elul as we take stock of the year gone by. It is a time when we look closely at what we've accomplished and which areas need some work.
How is it possible to connect to both of these seemingly paradoxical aspects of Elul?
I believe the key to this lies in the field. The field lays outside of the city limits, it is a place where identities, opinions, and long held beliefs can be relinquished. As the poet Rumi wrote "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there."
During this month, G-d meets us out in the field and we can reach a place that is higher than the transactional aspect of our relationship which often manifests as "Jewish Guilt".
What we have access to in this month is love, unconditional acceptance, compassion and connection. However the field is not the ultimate destination. It lays the foundation and creates a container for the work that follows. Next, we come to our personal reckoning with the open heartedness and love we nurtured in the field. This enables us to look at ourselves truthfully, free from the clutches of our inner critic and ego. This contemplation focuses not on writing up a long list of sins, but on how we are nurturing our own souls, how are we showing up in our relationship with G-d?
There is a custom to blow the Shofar every day in the month of Elul. The Shofar's sound urges the soul to go out to the field, to take advantage of this special time.
Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and a wonderful week ahead.