The Choices We Make
Determine Life's Pattern
themselves one hour every day and
examine the 613 commandments
and count them over, one by one.
Whether they have committed one
transgression or many transgressions
let them confess, each of them, and
write them down in a book for a
Our task during the month of
his week's portion begins
Elul is to look inside ourselves, to
with the well-known
reflect upon the events of the past
phrase, "See, I have set
year and assess what we have to be
before you this day a
thankful for and what we wish had
blessing and a curse ..."
been different. We must
We are reminded that if
ask ourselves difficult
we follow God's ways, we
will receive a blessing; but
Could we have been
if we turn away from God
more sensitive, more
and the commandments,
understanding, more open
we will face the curse. We
and sharing? Have we
have a choice to make, and
remained true to our
it will determine our future.
noblest impulses? Have we
Making choices and
lived our lives with
deciding which path our
integrity and guarded the
lives should take are the
RABBI MARLA divine image within us?
themes of this season in the
Each of us may choose
J. FEL DMAN
Jewish yearly cycle. This
a different approach to
week begins the month of
comply with this mandat-
Elul. During this month
ed period of introspection.
preceding the High Holy
Regardless of whether we
Days, we are challenged to
go into a daily seclusion or make a
begin our spiritual preparations for
list as Rabbi Yosef suggests, we
the Days of Awe (the 10-day period
should take time during the next
that starts at sunset on Rosh
few weeks for private reflection and
Hashanah, this year on Friday, Sept.
preparation. The Days of Awe are
6). It is traditional to blow the sho-
not designed to provide the sum-
far during this month as a reminder
total of our prayers and resolutions
to get our spiritual affairs in order.
for the year ahead; they are intended
It is during the month of Elul
to be the culmination of a month-
that we begin the process of teshu-
vah ("turning"). True teshuvah chal-
The choices we have before us are
lenges us to admit where we have
about life and death, blessings and
gone astray, regret our failures and
curses. Such choices require substan-
take active steps to change our
tial consideration over a period of
direction. During this month lead-
time, and that time begins now.
ing up to the High Holy Days, we
May our reflections during this
are charged to reflect, review our
season help us turn onto a path that
past, examine our goals and achieve-
leads to life, blessing, holiness and
ments and consider whether or not
we are on the right path.
Rabbi Yosef of Frankfort, a 16th
Century scholar, provided a blue-
print for this process of reflection:
"Let everyone do teshuvah during
all the month, and let them scruti-
nize their actions with a view to
mending them, and let them seclude
During the past year, have you
made good choices, or should
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, now with the
you do things differently in the
Reform movement's Union of American
year ahead? How do your actions
Hebrew Congregations in New York City,
lead to "blessings" or "curses"?
is the former assistant director of the
What can you do during the
Jewish Community Council of Metro-
month of Elul to prepare for the
politan Detroit and former executive
Days of Awe?
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