Thoughts on 9-11 and Elul

September 11, 2009 § 6 Comments

pictureI’m stepping away from my usual theme tonight. Today I did volunteer work for the National Day of Service at Christopher House, a hospice here in Austin. A group of us from Firepit Minyan helped to clean the gardens before more torrential rain hit the city.

But our thoughts are also on the upcoming High Holy Days, and later, for the minyan, we were asked to write about our personal experiences of Elul

Here are my Thoughts on Elul.

This is a difficult day to write about Elul: It is 9-11, I am barely a Jew and there is no sun. My Jew-dom, if you forgive the expression, is fragile and during the High Holy Days I feel like an imposter. To many I am – I am a patrilineal Jew who was not raised in the faith. But this faith is the only monotheistic Western one I feel called to, and so as my daughter says, I am Jew-ish.

Still, 9-11 reminds me that I am a citizen of the world and that is my highest allegiance. Any harm harms all and I try to find ways every day to prevent harm and repair damage so it does not ripple out, and any affiliation is secondary to that; perhaps another reason I’m Jew-ish.

My understanding of Elul is that we spend the month before the High Holy Days focusing on introspection, repentance, reconciliation, and heightened spirituality. (Disclaimer – I stole this definition from It’s right here that I’m confused. Why don’t we do this all year? What is it about us that we need a special time to make things right? Or is it that I’m an anxious introvert, a Pisces, and do this all the time?  Maybe it would help to look at some specific recommendations: Identify the changes you want to make in yourself – but I want to reduce the changes I want to make because I drive myself crazy with self-criticism (oh wait, that’s one); improve your relationships with others – well, yes, but I work on that 24/7 to the point of wanting Xanax; and move closer to G-d. Here perhaps, I could make a change, if I went to shul. But I don’t.  I do have a non-traditional spiritual support group, but we’ve already met this month, and our next meeting is in October.

So this 9-11, this Elul, I’m a wanderer, trying to link Jewish tradition with my desire to be a good citizen of the world, mystified.  Come to think, not a bad way to become closer to G-d. 


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§ 6 Responses to Thoughts on 9-11 and Elul

  • Vicki, thank you.

    It inspires me to hear how you view this time of year.

  • Vicki says:

    I love the High Holy days. It is a sweet reminder of who we are and what we struggle with juxtaposed with such a sacred invitation to communicate with G-d.
    It is a paradox to be sure. Standing before a Holy G-d and remembering and witnessing the renewal of an ancient covenant. The short lived season of Elul is a gift to reflect and evokes a cosmic response in us that should carry us throughout the year! It is my belief we need to live Elul not just walk through it for a time.

    Thank you for your heartfelt , honest thoughts…always enjoy hearing from you!

  • seanfraser says:

    Thanks..that made me think about my place in the world…and as a Pisces myself I think you’re great

  • Patrice says:

    I learn so much more about you through your writing. You have such a gentle vulnerability.

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