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High Holiday Reflections 2023

Elul Daily Reflections - 2023/5784



L’Shanah Tova

The Hebrew month of Elul immediately precedes the “High Holy Days” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  It is Jewish tradition to engage in a sustained period of reflection during Elul.

Or Atid is sending you a reflection every day of the Hebrew month of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah. The daily reflections are also posted on our High Holiday website. The purpose of the daily reflections is to help in your preparation for the transformative potential of the High Holy Days.

Day 1: Humanity/ Enoshiyut

'I don't speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don't have the power to remain silent.’ 


-- Rabbi A.Y. Kook, First Ashkenazy

Chief Rabbi, British Palestine

'Humanity is not a spectator sport.'

-- Caron Tabb, Artist,

born in apartheid South Africa, raised on a farm in Israel

Personal Reflection/Action


Have you ever “looked away” when speaking up could have helped/changed the outcome?  Commit to speak out when you see injustice. Here’s a process to follow to report an antisemitic or bias incident:  Help make our communities safer, empower us, and assist law enforcement investigations.


Watch this short Video by the Maccabeats: Smart Ways To Live By



'A life without a dream is not a life. But a dream without limits is an illusion.'


Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, Leading Jewish thinker on Jewish theology and ethics, Jewish-Christian relations, and Holocaust education

Personal Reflection/Action


View the wonderful illustration of this quote by Robert Neubecker from the PJ Library Voices & Visions Posters below and on display in the Or Atid Lobby. Reflect on a dream you want to accomplish in 5784 and take steps to accomplish it.



Day 3: REPENTANCE - Teshuvah

'In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain…it represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do.'

- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013

Personal Reflection/Action


Contemplate this poem by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of Congregation Beth Israel of the Berkshires, then think about how you practice Teshuvah, not just on the High Holidays but all year long?


Return, by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat


How to make it new:

each year the same missing

of the same marks,

the same petitions

and apologies.


We were impatient, unkind.

We let ego rule the day

and forgot to be thankful.

We allowed our fears

to distance us.


But every year

the ascent through Elul

does its magic,

shakes old bitterness

from our hands and hearts.


We sit awake, itemizing

ways we want to change.

We try not to mind

that this year’s list

looks just like last.


The conversation gets

easier as we limber up.

Soon we can stretch farther

than we ever imagined.

We breathe deeper.


By the time we reach the top

we’ve forgotten

how nervous we were

that repeating the climb

wasn’t worth the work.


Creation gleams before us.

The view from here matters

not because it’s different

from last year

but because we are


and the way to reach God

is one breath at a time,

one step, one word,

every second a chance

to reorient, repeat, return.


Day 4: RESPONSIBILITY -  Acharayut

'Be the change…show up and speak out. Educate myself and others. Demand accountability of myself and others.'

-       JewishArts Collaborative, Public Art and Social Justice Movement

Personal Reflection/Action


Visit the Art Installations entitled Be the Change on display in The Fenway through October and plan to support one or more of these important initiatives in your community. 


  1. Free to Learn - Academic Censorship
  2. In Other Eyes - Multiculturalism and Spatial Justice
  3. Searching For Home - Historical Impact of Redlining
  4. Wishing Well - Mental Health, Stigma, and Healing in BIPOC Communities
  5. The Power of the Vote - Voter Suppression
  6. Transcending Borders - Immigration Reform
  7. I Am My Sister’s Keeper - Reproductive Justice


Day 5: COURAGE - Ometz Lev

'If you see harassment happening, speak up. Being harassed is terrible; having bystanders pretend they don’t notice is infinitely worse.

- Celeste Ng, Author of Novels about Asian Americans

Personal Reflection/Action


Read AJC’s Call to Action Against Antisemitism.


Lobby your local and national leaders about the need to speak out against antisemitism and other forms of scapegoating.


Day 6: ACT WITH INTENTION - Kavvanah

'Stand for something, or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.'


- Rosa Parks, American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott


'When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.'

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Leading Jewish theologian and Jewish philosopher of the 20th century

Personal Reflection/Action


Watch this 2-minute video, Abraham Joshua Heschel & Martin Luther King, Jr. (2021)


Reflect on how MLK’s I Have a Dream speech resonates today




Shmi-Rat Ha-A-Da-Mah

'Hashem, our God then took the human being and settled them in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it.'

- Genesis 2:15


'Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.'

- Rachel Carson, Conservationist/author of influential book Silent Spring


'One individual cannot possibly make a difference alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference – all the difference in the world.'


- Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, primatologist

Personal Reflection/Action


Perform one or more actions to help protect our planet. Here are some ideas:




A midrash:


We All Stood at Sinai – We were all there, young, and old, every Jew throughout time


A midrash often studied on Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, presents the idea that all Jews, past, present, and future, stood at Mt. Sinai to receive the revelation of Torah collectively, each in a way that they could understand it.


- Rabbi Lauren Tuchman, First female blind Rabbi

Personal Reflection/Action


How do you contribute to building a safe, respectful and equitable Jewish space at Or Atid? Attend a meeting of the Or Atid RDE (Racial Diversity and Equity) committee or talk to one of their members about what actions they are taking. Volunteer to participate in MLK or Immigrant Shabbat.


Listen to this Eli talk by Rabbi Lauren Tuchman


Day 9: TAKING ACTION - Zerizut

'The secret of getting ahead is getting started.'


Mark Twain, American writer and humorist

Personal Reflection/Action


Pick one thing on your ‘bucket list,’ and take one step to make it happen.


Day 10: CURIOSITY – Sakranut

'The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.'

-  Albert Einstein


An old joke:

A man asks his rabbi, "Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"

The rabbi replies, "How should we answer?"

Personal Reflection/Action


Judaism values curiosity and teaches that a person should always be questioning. What would you like to learn more about this year? Who can you learn from to help satisfy your curiosity?

Mon, June 24 2024 18 Sivan 5784