Reflections During Elul: What Does the World Need From You?

This week began the Hebrew month of Elul, the time leading to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Judaism has always known that we cannot simply appear at High Holiday services and expect something spiritually significant to happen.  Without preparation, we will not be ready for the most difficult part of the holidays – teshuvah, spiritual return.  Elul is the gift of preparation.  Each weekday morning, the shofar is sounded to wake us up and help us get ready.  (Come hear the shofar at weekday minyan at 7:30 am and Sunday minyan at 9:00 am)

Each week of Elul, I will offer a simple question and texts for reflection as you prepare for the important work of the High Holidays.  Use these for self-reflection and to hear what others say.  These questions are inspired by Hillel International’s “Ask Big Questions” programs that it runs on college campuses across the country.


  1. Pirke Avot 2:21

Rabbi Tarfon taught: You are not obligated to finish the task, neither are you free to neglect it.

  1. “Tales of the Hasidim” by Martin Buber

Once, the Hassidic rabbi Zusya came to his followers with tears in his eyes. They asked him: “Zusya, what’s the matter?  Zusya told them about his vision; “I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”  The followers were puzzled. “Zusya, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusya replied; “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’  The angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the Promised Land?”‘

Zusya sighed; “They will say to me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you more Zusya?'”