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Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, is a time of intense spiritual preparation for the coming year. On Rosh Hodesh Elul the shofar will be blown in order to awaken our spirits and inspire us to begin the soul searching which will prepare us for the High Holy Days.
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Oh God, our God and God of our ancestors, everything we accomplish is but a reflection of Your gifts to us, much as the moon only reflects the light of the sun. At Rosh Hodesh, only the barest sliver of moon is visible to us, and there is much we cannot see.
Today, too, we see but a sliver of Klal Yisrael, the whole of the Jewish world, from our separate Jewish communities. There is much we cannot see.
As the moon waxes, so too may our understanding of the wider Jewish world,
particularly, those with whom we differ:
Renew our lives, we pray,
for a life of peaceful co-existence in our religious variety;
for a life of goodness, enriched by a widening sense of community;
marked by piety and fear of sin,
as we recognize the image of God in each individual;
free from shame and reproach,
as we renew our efforts to guard our tongues and our thoughts;
of abundance with honor;
filled with love of Torah, in all its facets, and reverence for You,
in which the worthy desires of our hearts will be fulfilled for good.
May the One who has done wonderful things for our ancestors, who redeemed them from slavery to freedom bring us from the narrow confines of our own philosophies and practices to a wider understanding and love for our people, scattered to the four corners of the world. Bring us together toward an Israel united, for life, rejoicing, happiness, salvation and consolation. And let us say: AMEN.
Also recommended: Psalm 139 for guidance. Below are the concluding verses from a new, inspiring translation:
Put to an end the hatred of haters,
those who have made me their foe.
Search me out with shovel and torchlight, God;
know my heart by means of compassion.
Understand the turbulent branching of my thoughts.
See the road that brings me sadness,
and lead me instead on the path of eternal life.
– from Psalm 139, translated by Pamela Greenberg
The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation.
New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.