Elul: Countdown to High Holy Days

It has been almost 2 full months since my last blogpost here, and I’m feeling remorse about having abandoned my writing practice for the summer. I will try to regain equilibrium in the new year of 5784. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that any improvements to my work-life balance will have come incrementally during the next 8 weeks.

We’ve reached the month of Elul in the Jewish calendar, less than 4 weeks until the eve of the new year, Rosh HaShanah. It’s really the first of Elul that kicks off our season of repentance. Now is when we begin a period of reflection: taking stock of who we were and what we did in the previous 11 months, taking responsibility for mistakes we made and resolving to improve ourselves and our relationships in the year ahead.

While we are given a grace period of 10 daysuntil the eve of Yom Kippur, to ask forgivness from those we may have hurtit’s not too soon to begin the process of return. Sounding the shofar every weekday morning and reciting Psalm 27 in the daily liturgy remind us of our need to get right with ourselves and each other in the coming weeks.

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In case you missed the “Reflections from Rabbi Gottfried” that I shared with my congregation in July and August, follow the links below.

Rosh Hodesh Elul: Water, Wind and Fire

According to biblical tradition, before God created the world it was shapeless and formless. God made the heavens and the earth by separating the waters above and below; God created light by calling it into existence. Midrash, rabbinic legend, has a slightly different version. Read more


Tisha B’Av: Exile and Return


For Tisha B’Av, I share with you an oft-repeated story about the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, in the year 70 C.E. 

According to the Talmud, one man’s longstanding grudge against another, which emboldened him to publicly humiliate him and eject him from a dinner party, ultimately leads to the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. Here’s my retelling of the story, faithfully and somewhat fancifully translated from the Aramaic: Read more→