What a beautiful summer we have had. I had the pleasure of many long swims in the lakes of the Berkshires and found that my mind was predominantly focused on what water source I could dip myself into, each day. As we have now entered the month of Ellul, I find that water remains for me, the key image of this season as well.
Water is the source of life on this earth. It is the first form described in the Torah.
In the beginning, when God began to create the Heaven and the Earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep, and a wind from God sweeping over the water…(Gen.1:1-2) Water is the first stage in the creation of the earth. It is fluid, changable, and it softens that which it contacts, so that a trickle of water over rock, can create a Grand Canyon over time.
As we move through the month of Ellul, preceding the shift to a new year, the Rabbis encourage us to use this time for heshbon hanefesh- to take an accounting of our soul. This month offers us the opportunity to gaze upon our own reflection and honestly take stock of our Selves. Have I reacted with anger when I could have responded with compassion? What is the condition of my relationships? Is there a particular relationship that needs repair? How have I supported my community? Have I contributed enough to the work for justice in our world? This type of self-assessment requires honesty and self-compassion. It requires a softening of the ego, whose grip can create a self-serving rigidity.
Let us use this month to return to our own source- to catch a glimpse of the essence of who we are. As water softens rock, let us begin the process of softening our hearts so that when we come together on Rosh Hashanah, we can truly begin a New year.
The following Kavannah-Intentional Prayer was written for use before ritual immersion in a mikveh. I offer it as a prayer for this season. I look forward to meeting you all on Rosh Hashanah.
Immersion in water softens our form,
Making us malleable,
Dissolving some of the rigidity of who we are.
This allows us to decide who we wish to be
when we come out of the water.
The water changes us neither by washing away something
Nor by letting something soak into us,
But simply by softening us
So that we can choose
To remold ourselves into a different image.
From CLAL, the National Center for Learning and Leadership