Dear WJC Family,
Chodesh Tov – Happy New Month! Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh HaShanah. One explanation of the name of this month, spelled in Hebrew אלול, is that it is an acronym for the famous verse from the Song of Songs, “אני לדודי ודודי לי, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” It is a beautiful idea – that during this month long lead up to the High Holidays we feel as close to God as a bride and groom walking down the aisle. Yet, even as we appreciate this image of intimacy, there is a deeper emotional message worth highlighting.
Allow me to explain with a favorite story I sometimes tell before we sing Licha Dodi (lit. Come by beloved) on Friday night:
Norfolk is a Navy town. It hosts the biggest Naval base in the world, and it is only one of several bases in the area. Needless to say, there are more military personnel around than you can shake a stick at.
I used to jog regularly and my route would take me past the city courthouse. Inevitably I would see sailors coming out in their dress whites with their partners in a nice suit or white dress. It was a stop many sailors made with their significant others before deployment – a spouse has several benefits that make expediting a wedding before deployment a good idea.
So, I would run by these couples and no matter how tired I was, I would feel the same thing – joy. The optimistic joy of a shared life about to start. The silly joy of young love. The serious joy of the solemnization of a union. The pure joy of the joining of two souls in a new partnership. It is awfully hard to look at a bride and groom and not feel joy.
And perhaps this is the deeper meaning in the name Elul. In invoking the bride and groom image of Song of Songs, we are not only naming the special intimacy of this season; we are declaring that the inevitable result of that intimacy is joy. The High Holidays are meant to bring us a special joy unlike almost any other, the powerful kind of joy experienced by and inspired by a couple on their wedding day.
This year, as we celebrate these holidays with the theme Joyful Together, may we all welcome their approach with a joyful anticipation – anticipation of shared family meals and shared communal spirituality, anticipation of singing and remembering, anticipation of inspiration and rejuvenation. And all of it with joy!
We are looking forward to sharing the joy with you starting with our Simchadik (joyful) Friday night service and dinner on September 8th (please join us by clicking here and come prepared to sing and dance!), at our community BBQ on Sunday September 10 at noon, and throughout the Holiday Season. And if there is anything we can do to help increase your joy as the holidays approach, please let us know.
B’Simcha (In joy),
P.S. My apologies that there will be no video drash this week – too hectic with driving Elijah to college!