Welcome to the third week of Elul writing. I hope that you’ve been able to find the right rhythm in your days and week that allows for a satisfying and meaningful practice. I also want to appreciate and congratulate you for doing what is often hard, courageous work – sitting down to find yourself on the page, exploring inner voices and truths, perhaps coming to know yourself in a new and different way.
Special urging this week to listen to the audio guide – you’ll need it to understand some of the prompts.
Prompts for Week 3
* In the poem “Mazel Tov!” (listen to the accompanying audio) an individual goes out on a limb and transforms a public moment. Remember a particular time when you were present for a situation that was missing its deeper potential – a Shabbat dinner? Thanksgiving gathering? baby naming? neighborhood picnic? Did you do something to help the moment realize its potential? If so, what was it you did? If not, what held you back? How could you give yourself permission to rise to such occasions?
* Consider the many communities of which you are a part – perhaps a regular study or meditation circle, synagogue or havurah, a political or civic group, workplace or professional association, school, sports team, etc. In which realms have you been active this past year? Choose one community in particular and one of the following prompts to focus your writing –
How is this community a source of meaning for you? What are the particular strengths, gifts you contribute? What might be a growing edge for you and the group in the coming year?
What has been your role in this group? How do others view you? What might you like to change about how you are in this community? Is there anyone there with whom you need to do teshuvah? What might you need to do or say?
* Get proximate to the problem. Get close to the things that matter, get close to the places where there is inequality and suffering, get close to the spaces where people feel oppressed, burdened, and abused… See what it does to your capacity to make a difference, see what it does to you. - Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative; initiator of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery AL
When have you gotten “proximate to the problem”? What was “the problem”? What qualities of yours allowed you to get close? What happened? How did you change, grow?
When have you felt an impulse to get “close to a problem” but wound up feeling unable to do so? What were the obstacles? Notice if there’s a punishing or judgmental tone – can you tell the story from the place of compassion?
* Consider the range of local, national and global problems. What are your particular strengths and how might you creatively harness them to contribute to tikkun olam in one of these areas of concern?
follow-up – I doubt that efforts to address societal problems can meet with much success when undertaken solo – With what admired friend[s] or mentor[s] would you like to stand “shoulder to shoulder” in tikkun olam work? What might you hope to do with them?
May your courage and openness be strengthened by this Elul work and may it be a hallmark of your day-to-day life and spiritual practice in the coming year!