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Ellul Preparation for the High Holydays - Week 1 - Cheshbon HaNefesh and Repairing our Relationships

Dear Friends

We are currently in the Jewish month of Ellul – which means it’s almost Rosh Hashana! In fact, Rosh Hashana is now less than 3 weeks away – beginning on the night of Monday 6th September.

There is important work to be done in Ellul, as we prepare for the powerful, transformative experiences of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. This work is known in Hebrew in our tradition as “Cheshbon HaNefesh” – which literally means “Soul Accounting”.

The idea is that we engage in a process of inner exploration – of exploring and uncovering what has really been going on in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls over the past year. Of course, what we actually do in the world, the way we behave, is of utmost importance, and, yet much of how we show up in the world is determined by what happens in our inner worlds – those worlds that no one else can see.

Sometimes we may hide even from ourselves what’s going on inside us out of shame, guilt or pain. So, I want to say that this process isn’t easy. No one said it was easy – walking the Jewish spiritual path isn’t easy, but it is real and it is meaningful. And it is, if we so choose, an incredible opportunity for healing, for opening and for returning to our truest, most beautiful selves (Teshuva). My experience has been that if we engage in this work in an authentic and real way, then the Universe / The Source of Life / Universal Consciousness / God comes to support us as we engage in this.

The invitation is to be as honest as we can. So, you may wish to do this work on your own with a journal or with a trusted friend, mentor or therapist. There are different ways we can go about this, so let me start with some suggestions that I have learned from my teachers.

Let’s begin with: Repairing Relationships

One of the most powerful things we can do during Ellul, and all the way up to Yom Kippur, is to repair those relationships that have been sundered or neglected, whether purposefully or through no fault of our own. For many of us, this year of Covid has made it doubly hard to maintain, sustain and nurture many of the relationships that we cherish in our lives.

You could begin by:

  • Creating a list of people you want to connect with. These could be people you have lost touch within the last year or people with whom you have had a disagreement or argument which has left you feeling distanced from them or frustrated with them.

  • Next, set up a time to meet or speak with each of these people and spend some time preparing for the encounter and reflecting on how you can best reconnect and rebuild.

  • Then, when you meet or speak, try, as much as you are able to, to be honest with them about your responsibility in allowing the relationship to wane and let them know about your desire to reconnect and rebuild.

This process will help you identify who you want to reconnect with and to prioritise those relationships.

Good luck and remember that you can’t control the outcome or the other person’s responses or reactions. Just try to stay true to your intention and to your inner truth.

With love and blessings

Rabbi Danny

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