Elul is a special time on the Jewish calendar that is meant for reconnecting to our more spiritual side.
(Side note: These tips work any time of the year, but the sages believed that the time leading up to the High Holidays set a special atmosphere for deeper connections.)
Whatever your level of spiritual or religious practice may look like below are some tips that we hope will inspire you this Elul.
1. Read some Jewish classics
It’s become an annual tradition for some people to read “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” by Rabbi Alan Lew” during Elul. Described as a book for:
The Days of Awe encompass the weeks preceding Rosh Hashanah up to Yom Kippur, a period in which Jews take part in a series of rituals and prayers that reenact the journey of the soul through the world from birth to death. This is a period of contemplation and repentance, comparable to Lent and Ramadan. Yet, for Rabbi Alan Lew, the real purpose of this annual passage is for us to experience brokenheartedness and open our heart to God.
If you’re looking to dig even deeper, there’s also “Repentance” by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik and “Return and Renewal: Reflections on Teshuva and Spiritual Growth” by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.
2. Go on a digital detox
Take a little noise out of your life by limiting the amount of time you spend on your phone. Science shows limiting your screen time by even a small amount can increase your focus and productivity. Reduced screen time also leads to reduced stress and anxiety levels.
3. Join a class
Elul can be a time for learning as well. Use this time as the excuse you’ve been waiting for to head back into the classroom. Splurge on that Master Class you always wanted. An engaged and learning mind is a happy mind.
Synagogues also typically offer special study courses during this month but you don’t have to head to shul to learn. There are daily emails from the group Jewels of Elul, My Jewish Learning also has a special Elul program as does the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
4. Get into a shofar mood
Starting on the first of Elul and continuing through Sukkot, it is customary to read Psalm 27 daily and then listen to a blast of the shofar. Creating a moment each day to blast the shofar can provide you with a great daily reset moment. Think about all those times you just wanted to scream into the void, well now you have a religious “excuse” to make some noise. The shofar’s sound reminds us to listen to the blasts of forgiveness. Plus now thanks to the app store you don’t even need to own a shofar.
5. Reach out to friends and family
Bringing back the custom of sending a Rosh Hashanah card can be the perfect way to reconnect with a friend of family member that may have fallen off of the radar.
6. Learn how to forgive
Sometimes we forget that forgiveness is on the other side of teshuva (repenting). Forgiveness is crucial part of the letting go and healing process. The special routines we put in place during Elul can help us with this difficult process and give us the mental space to process and let go.
7. Embrace a healthy diet
Mind, body and soul. Elul has two out of the three down pat so why not go three for three with embracing your body? Science shows that a healthy body also helps with a healthy mind.
8. Get outside
“Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and the grasses, among all growing things and there may I be alone and enter into prayer to talk with the one that I belong to. Know that every shepherd and shepherdess has a unique nigun (melody) for each of the grasses and for each place where they herd. For each and every grass has its own song and from these songs of the grasses the shepherds compose their songs.”Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Lekutai Moharan Tanina 63
Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the harvest season, a time spent outdoors. Why not get a head start now?
9. Start embracing the future
“We can face any future without fear so long as we know we will not face it alone,” Rabbi Sacks z”l. We are about to head into a new year filled with a new set of challenges and experiences, what we do in the month of Elul can set up how we embrace these challenges in the new year.
10. Internalize your relationship with Judaism
“The great journey of transformation begins with the acknowledgment that we need to make it. It is not something we are undertaking for amusement, nor even for the sake of convention; rather, it is a spiritual necessity.”Rabbi Alan Lew, “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation”
Originally Published Aug 11 2021 03:03PM EDT