Stories are the greatest gifts each of us has to offer. In the sharing of our lived experiences and the lessons gleaned from those experiences, we expand people’s understanding and perspectives. Stories widen people’s view of the greater world, the storyteller, and the listener’s (or reader’s) own sphere of influence.
Elul propels us toward the High Holy Days. This month, which began at sundown this past Sunday night, is a time for reflection, introspection, and soul-work. It is a time to ask ourselves, as Rabbi Alan Lew writes, “who we are and where we are going,” (1) or as Rabbi Naomi Levy offers, “What has my soul been trying to say to me that I’ve been ignoring?” (2)
Elul is a time for story-examining, story-gathering, and yes, for storytelling.
For a few years now, we have invited Temple Beth El members to share their stories as part of our Elul Blog Series. In this fourth year of the series, our #TBEElulBlog project focuses on experiences shared during our recent listening campaign, “From Social Distance to Social Justice.” Between mid-May and the end of June of this year, over 200 Temple Beth El members met on porches and in living rooms, and on zoom, to begin to process their individual and shared experiences of the past 16 months of pandemic. They spoke of gratitude and grief, of pain and loss – and sometimes of unexpected bounty and blessings. They shared their stories of loneliness, and of luckiness.
This year’s Elul Blog Project stories were originally shared during those house meetings and are written for the blog through the lens of one of four themes from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Shofar Project. These four themes stem from four interpretations of the way the shofar’s sound impacts all those who hear it. The sound of the shofar asks us to awaken, to open our hearts. Once our hearts are open, we are better able to hear the pain of the world. With the sounds of that pain ringing in our ears, we can return to compassion, and finally, that compassion leads us to become instruments for justice.
This Elul, may the stories shared by Temple Beth El congregants be shofar sounds to all of us; may they call on us to open our hearts, hear pain, return to compassion, and seek justice. And as we read along, may we be inspired to share our own stories as well.
- Alan Lew, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared, Page 67
- Naomi Levy, Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, Page 32