Do you ever notice when something, however small, seems to keep popping up wherever you look?
(I promise not to get all wiggy on you, but seriously, have you?)
Lately, I’ve found myself surrounded by eggs. I’ve made four loaves of challah in the past 3 weeks…
…consumed more egg salad than I have in months…
…and over this weekend made both French toast…
By my count, that’s about 20 eggs. I should start looking into owning chickens at the rate I’m going.
At first, I thought this was just funny, or perhaps easily explained away for coincidence – we’ve had a ton of squash as well, but that’s only because a friendly farmer at the market just kept giving me squash. I’ve barely made a dent in the 9 or so hanging out in our fridge.
…anyone want a squash? Or four?
I thought I would write a funny little post about how I was drowning in eggs and I’d be done with it. But when is what I think will happen ever the reality?
Friday night we went to Temple and were honored to witness the conversion of a dear friend (the reason I made 2 of those challah loaves). She is a wonderful person with beautiful kids, and everyone in attendance was teary-eyed as she spoke about her journey, and her aspirations looking forward to becoming even more integrated into the community. She also spoke about how fitting the timing was, as her birthday was the next day – and it was also the start of the Hebrew month of Elul.
Elul is a special time in the calendar. It is the month that precedes the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and as such it has become a time for reflection on the year past and preparation for the year to come. Specifically, it is a time to look at our shortcomings and where we have not lived up to our potential. There are special prayers for repenting for sins, but it’s not enough to simply repent: one must reconcile those sins committed against others, and those committed against god.
Although I generally hate the idea of sin and repentance (I find it’s used far, far too often to browbeat people into feeling terrible about themselves so they’ll do whatever authority figures tell them to), I do like the practice of some introspective thinking, looking inside oneself to see where things are good and, well, not so good. I especially like it within a designated time frame, beginning with Elul and ending with the festivities of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Wait, weren’t we talking about eggs?
I was thinking about Elul and our friend’s speech as we left Temple. At home, I was scrambling eggs for French toast when I remembered what eggs can symbolize: mourning, yet life. Eggs are one of the traditional foods to be given to mourners, and yet they are placed on our seder plates in honor of springtime and rebirth. I loved this duality: the good, and the bad. A duality that exists within all of us at one point or another, and one we’re particularly cognizant of during Elul. We spend over a month studying our less than savory qualities, celebrate a new year, and get back out there, hoping to embrace and project only the good within us.
I don’t think I’ve been surrounded by eggs by some mystical higher being in order for me to get that message (as that’s a bit too wiggy for even me!), but I do think that by observing my life, I can see that there are so many ways I can improve for the better, if only I take a moment to notice the little things. Little things like eggs.
There are many ways to observe Elul in preparation for the year ahead. (This article has some good ideas). So in honor of the first of Elul, here are the areas I’d like to really focus on in the upcoming month:
- Being more patient with people (for whatever reason)
- Setting aside time each day for something spiritually focused – meditation, prayer, reading, etc.
- Exercise – more of it, more often
- Giving at least one thing each day 100% – no slacking, no skirting
- Never missing an opportunity to say “Thank you” or “I love you”
I know there are so many other areas I could focus on – I don’t want to give the impression that this is ALL I need to do – but I think this is the most beneficial, both for myself and those around me. I’d like to do a weekly check-in up through Rosh Hashanah to see how I feel I’m faring, and document some of my thoughts and ideas. I’ve decided to call it the Elul Challenge – one month of challenging myself to be a better person. I hope I’ll have some interesting insights at the end!
Your turn: what’s one way you’d like to challenge yourself to be a better person?