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Many years ago, my husband and I were invited to a small dinner party by friends of ours. We didn’t know the other people who attended, but I had heard of one of them. Her name was Peggy. She was a minister at the Church of Religious Science in Huntington Beach, CA and was living with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. At this point, she was confined to a wheelchair and was there with her husband. Someone who knew her but hadn’t seen her in a while asked her how she was doing. She answered, speaking with some difficulty, “I’m just fine in here.” I felt her smile and her face was glowing. I was so moved by the peace and joy she had found.
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At this time of year, Jews are preparing for the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. One of my Torah study partners shared that there are many customs that can be practiced in this month of Elul and I wasn’t aware of them, so I did a little homework. Here is part of what I learned :
Elul is also the month of soul-accounting. A businessman occasionally needs to calculate an overall profit-and-loss statement, as well as a detailed ledger. We too need to conduct an annual audit of the state of our spiritual “business.” The entire year we are involved in accruing profit: serving G‑d through Torah-study, mitzvah-observance, prayer and good deeds. In the month of Elul, we make a general reckoning of all we have done throughout the year.
My partner shared that Elul was a time when we could also commit personally to a process or behavior that would prepare us for this significant part of the year and the year ahead. Coincidentally, I told her that I had committed to remind myself throughout each day that G-d was with me. It isn’t just an exercise for me; I bring G-d to mind at times of gratitude, at times of confusion or struggle or unease. When I make this effort, I am deeply comforted and drawn out of my self-pity to refocus on the people and world around me.
For those of us who are religious, who feel the isolation and sadness of these times, I think we can be comforted to know that regardless of what is happening, G-d is always, always there.
And find the peace of mind to say, “I’m just fine in here.”Published in