Exploring Elul

A month-long writing workshop hosted by Merle Feld

Elul, the Hebrew month which precedes the High Holiday season, is a time for turning inward, exploring to find, remember, envision your best self, what makes you full, joyous, a holy instrument. Elul calls to us - turn, turn, recall your sacred and most authentic center, return to it and nourish it anew, so it can nourish you as you move through the new year.

As I have done for many years, in many settings, this year I am again providing spiritual leaders and lay seekers several ways of experiencing Elul through the practice of spiritual writing.

I will begin by offering writing prompts and an audio file on this site for the first week of Elul, then more audio files and prompts each of the following three weeks - spiritual warm-ups and stretches to prepare for the Days of Awe, the High Holiday season. I’m structuring these offerings in the following way:

1 - The heart of the matter - Give yourself the gift of quiet time just for you, find a safe space where you won't be disturbed, sit with each of the prompts that call to you, listen to the neglected voices within, write by hand if you can, 15 minutes today, and perhaps again tomorrow - you’ll know what frequency suits you best. The prompts and audios are an open menu, available to rabbis, cantors, educators, us ordinary folk too, Jews and those of other faiths, and those in search of faith.

2 - Another option - You may want to choose a special person in your life, someone you trust, feel close to, someone who helps stir your curiosity, supports your honesty, and invite them to be your hevrusa (writing partner) throughout the month. Maybe an old friend, a family member, a colleague, a partner in activism, a shul buddy… You can each support this effort by committing to one another - you’ll both set aside some regular times to write each week, perhaps in the same room, or virtually over the phone or on Skype. Or you can write separately, when most convenient for each of you. In any case, share with your hevrusa what you’ve written about, what you’ve discovered, what questions arose; then listen deeply as your writing partner shares with you. Reflect together on the themes of each week in sacred conversation as you prepare to begin a new year.

3 - A special suggestion for clergy - Entering my 15th year of guiding rabbis and cantors and student clergy through spiritual writing practice, I am especially conscious of how difficult life becomes for you as the sliver of moon announces Elul. I invite you to take time for yourself this month as you prepare to serve others. Best of all, identify a colleague you have enjoyed learning with in the past and invite them to partner with you as you both write and share this month.

Writing prompts will become available for those who have signed up beginning September 1.  This program is free of charge although contributions to Derekh are welcome if you find the program meaningful. I hope these prompts and materials will help you in your journey to renewal and blessings in the coming year.