Elul: I Am My Beloved’s…But I’m Not Only That

For the month of Elul, I’ve been trying to get myself into shape. One of the things that Rebbe Nachman (and basically everyone else) suggests doing in order to achieve this goal is learning Jewish laws. My father-in-law recently gave us this tiny, awesome Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, which is a handy guidebook to what Jewish stuff you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment. It’s much more of a Judaism for Dummies than the actual book.

So I’ve been reading up on my life as a Jew. Sometimes a line or two at a shot (the entries are mostly really short, which plays to our advantage) and sometimes — like kitzur shulchan aruchthis morning, on the stalled 5 train — an entire chapter. Part of what got me so excited was the talk of Psalm 27, which we read at the end of morning prayers all this month. (If you’ve ever seen a horror movie, you’ve probably heard it in some form; it’s the one that starts “The Lord is my light and my salvation; who should I fear?”) I know that our article says it’s a slightly schizophrenic psalm, I still like it. I get a shiver every time I read “The only thing I ask for is to live in God’s house all the days of my life.” Not that I have any clue what God’s house looks like, but it seems like it would be a good place to be. Just the idea of having a house to curl up into, metaphorical or otherwise, sounds like a pretty good deal. And like a pretty comforting thing, especially in the

(My other favorite line, “When evil men come close to eat my flesh, they stumble and fall,” clearly plays to the action-adventure author side of my personality, but that’s another blog entry.)

So the Kitzur, whose role usually shies away from the sort of non-how-to thing, goes out of its way to talk about the different acronyms for Elul. Usually, people like to say how Elul is the healing time after the catastrophes of Tisha B’Av, and the strain on our relationship with God that things like massive destruction tend to cause. They point out how the Hebrew letters alef, lamed, vov, lamed — the four letters that spell “Elul” — stand for “Ani L’dodi v’dodi li,” or “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is for me.”

Posted on September 8, 2009

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