Sunday was the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul. While this day may have come and gone with little recognition for its Jewish significance, the first day of Elul marks the beginning of a 40 day journey to our Day of Atonement – 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
40 years of wandering after our Exodus from Egypt
40 weeks of pregnancy
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, the world finds renewal after 40 days of the great flood. When Moses receives the Torah, the Israelite wait 40 days to receive a set of laws that would forever shape the Jewish experience. During the 40 years of wandering, our people found renewal as before 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 the first of Elul 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 so that this 40 day period of transition might lead us to find a sense of rebirth within ourselves and the relationships we cherish.