We Begin Elul with Love by Rabbi Asher Knight

This week we enter the Jewish month of Elul, the four weeks preceding the High Holy Days. For millennia, our rabbis have taught that the word, Elul (aleph-lamed-vuv-lamed), is an acronym for the famous verse of love poetry from the Song of Songs: Ani L’dodi v’dodi li, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.”

אֱלוּל Elul

אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי  Ani L’dodi v’dodi li

 

At this season of spiritual renewal, we begin with love. Song of Songs speaks of love as personal commitment and devotion. Love is certainly a powerful and intense human emotion. Hard to define and describe, love is impossible to measure or quantify. We seek to be loved and to love others. This week, as we begin the steady march toward the High Holy Days, we have asked Temple Beth El members and Charlotte Jewish community leaders to explore the theme of “love.”

I often think that love is like the sustaining waters of a well. When we feel like love is missing in our lives – the love that we want to receive or the love that we want to give – we may feel like we are living in an emotional and spiritual desert. Parched and thirsty, we seek the quenching waters of love. When there is too much of certain types of love, we may feel drenched or soaking in love’s fast flowing or deep waters. Yes, like water, love can be dangerous too. Too little, and we suffer. Too much, and we drown.

At this season, we consider the balance in our lives, reflecting on the ways we have loved and been loved in the last year. Consider these questions:

  • How do I love myself? How can I love myself better?
  • What is sustaining in my life? What is draining?
  • How deep is my personal well?
  • What relationships occupy my time and energy? What relationships should be occupying my time and energy?
  • Whom do I love? How do I show my love?
  • How have I cultivated a spiritual life?
  • How can I connect with the love that is in my heart – and the love that is in the Universe?

My colleague, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, wrote a beautiful poem about love. In it, he suggests that God loves us and embraces us, no matter who we are or what we have done. As you consider and reflect at this season, know that you are loved by an unending love. May the love from the One, support and sustain your journey of self-discovery and spiritual renewal at this season.

An Unending Love by Rabbi Rami Shapiro
We are loved by an unending love.
We are embraced by arms that find us
even when we are hidden from ourselves.
We are touched by fingers that soothe us
even when we are too proud for soothing.
We are counseled by voices that guide us
even when we are too embittered to hear.
We are loved by an unending love.
We are supported by hands that uplift us
even in the midst of a fall.
We are urged on by eyes that meet us
even when we are too weak for meeting.
We are loved by an unending love.
Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled,
Ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices;
Ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles;
We are loved by an unending love.