Today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. Today is a day of incredible significance to the Jewish people in the process of atonement, because from this day forth, we embark upon a 40 day journey which will lead us through Yom Kippur.
This 40 day process parallels many of the important events in our lives and our heritage which also involve the span of 40 days, 40 weeks or 40 years. Consider some of the following:
• 40 days of the flood in the story of Noah;
• 40 days of waiting while Moses was receiving Torah from God on Mount Sinai
• 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after our Exodus from Egypt;
• 40 weeks of pregnancy;
• 40 days for spiritual preparation from the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul (which is the month which immediately precedes the beginning of the Jewish New Year) until Yom Kippur.
In each of these circumstances, the number 40 plays a major role in the human transition from chaos to renewal. In the story of Noah and the flood, the world was born again after 40 days. In the story of Moses and the receiving of Torah, 40 days of waiting results in the Laws that would forever shape the Jewish experience. In the case of 40 years of wandering, our people found renewal as they entered the Promised Land. In the case of childbirth, 40 weeks of gestation results in the promise of new hopes and dreams, as renewal is the gift that is realized with every new life.
So too it is regarding this sacred 40 day journey from today until the end Yom Kippur. For the next 40 days, our faith presents us a spiritual period of gestation and inner wandering. During these 40 days we are supposed to consider how we might create closure to issues which have plagued us all year long and set out a pathway toward personal renewal for the New Year to come.
As each of us begins this process of introspection and reflection, may we all be blessed with the insight to understand the impact of our actions in the world around us over the course of the past year and the strength to right any wrongs we may have committed, so that at the end of these 40 days we may find a sense of rebirth within ourselves and the relationships we cherish.
L’Shalom – Steve