Op-eds

Elul goggles give us 2020 vision

  • DanielleSack
It’s official – I’m finished my second set of prelims. I can now focus on preparing for arguably the most important exams of my life – finals. It’s no coincidence that this preparation begins in the month of Elul.
by DANI SACK | Sep 10, 2020

Elul is centred on new beginnings as it is in this month that we prepare ourselves spiritually for the Jewish new year. We use Elul to introspect, change our negative habits, and better ourselves. For some, this is a physical change – doing more exercise, eating healthier – and for others, it’s spiritual – reading a psalm of Tehillim each day or introducing Torah study into their schedule. Whichever way you choose to embrace it, the month of Elul is shrouded in heightened awareness of G-d.

This month, I find myself contemplating my actions more extensively, watching my language, and trying to strengthen my spiritual connection to G-d. I have learned many lessons from the lockdown, and it has brought deeper meaning to so many issues, that I feel as though this Elul, I’m putting on a very different set of ‘Elul-vision goggles’.

I drew the correlation between my final examinations and Elul last Sunday. While on a family outing (because I can attend those now), I checked my emails to find I had been accepted into a seminary in Israel. As I notified my friends and family, the impact of this moment dawned on me. Here I was, during the grace period between prelims and finals, getting an email that would kickstart my reality beyond high school, during the month that signifies new beginnings – Elul.

For most of my life, Elul has just been … Elul. It’s the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and a brief holiday from school. This year, Elul is much more. Due to COVID-19, I’m unable to spend Rosh Hashanah with my family. I doubt I’ll be able to attend shul on Yom Kippur. My school holiday isn’t really a holiday, it’s study leave. This year, everything is different.

The secular year 2020 has certainly been different. But 5780, the Jewish year, is coming to a close. I could reminisce about last year’s Rosh Hashanah, when I stuffed my face with my mother’s delicious food and koched with my cousins. I could wallow in the sadness that I won’t be able to do that this year.

However, I’m choosing to put on my “upgraded” Elul goggles. At the beginning of lockdown, I could see Hashem’s hand in all of this. As the months have gone by, that has faded. During this month and in the months to come, I’m going to try keep that Elul perspective and recognise Hashem in the madness.

Because even in the midst of a pandemic, I got an email saying that I had been accepted to live in Israel for a year and study Torah. Even in the midst of a pandemic, I will (please G-d) matriculate. Especially in the midst of a pandemic, we should all put on those upgraded goggles and count our blessings. Hashem has given us Elul so that we can better ourselves and seal our future in the Book of Life. So do that! And while you’re at it, please pray for the class of 2020 – we’re going to need it.

  • Dani Sack is a Grade 12 pupil at Yeshiva College

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