by Mary Eshet
The New Moon on August 17 marked the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the month preceding Tishrei, which includes the new year or Rosh Hashanah. Elul is traditionally a month for reflection and introspection, a time to prepare spiritually for the coming new year, including repenting for any wrongs.
One Torah reading during the month of Elul, Shoftim, instructs the officers of the Jewish army to release from battle anyone who has built a home they have not yet inhabited, planted a vineyard they have not yet harvested, or betrothed a woman they have not yet married. In other words, those with unfinished business should be allowed to attend to it. During this month of reflection, this serves as an invitation to consider what unfinished business is tearing at our hearts.
At the Greenspon Center, we are constantly focused on unfinished business, and it does indeed tear at our hearts. It is easy to feel inadequate in the face of overwhelming needs to combat hate, oppression and injustice. The work is immense and our efforts sometimes seem like small lights in the darkness, like a new moon.
Yet, with your help, we know we are making an impact by training educators how to teach others about the Holocaust, by preparing community organizers to pursue their initiatives for social justice, and by bringing together people of different faiths and ethnicities to further understanding. We are seeking to stop antisemitism at an early age with the Student to Student program that enables Jewish middle and high school students to share their traditions and culture with fellow students. We offer programs and classes to the community to enhance knowledge of Judaism and Jewish life.
As we reflect during this month of Elul and consider the upcoming year, we have bold goals. We will bring the “Seeing Auschwitz” exhibit to Charlotte in January 2024. This remarkable exhibit comprises a collection of 100 photographs of the camp that have survived to the present day, with an audio guide that includes testimonies from survivors. Charlotte will be the first place the exhibit appears in North America. In June, we are sponsoring a nine-day community trip to Poland to bear witness to the historical and present-day significance of Jewish life in Poland. We are continuing our certification programs in Holocaust pedagogy and community organizing as well as our sponsorship, along with Johnson C. Smith University, of the Charlotte Black Jewish Alliance.
Another aspect of Elul is that the Hebrew letters can be an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” from the Song of Songs, which means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” signifying the idea that Elul is a time when the connection to God comes easier than usual, making Elul a promising time to deepen one’s relationship with God. One custom to further the spiritual process is the daily blowing of the shofar to rouse us from complacency. It could be a tradition worth trying to start each day with such a wake-up call!
This month’s new moon is special for another reason – it is bookended by two supermoons. A supermoon occurs when a full moon coincides with perigee, the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. At those times the moon appears slightly larger and brighter. This year, August began and will end (on Aug. 30) with supermoons, making the second one not only a supermoon, but a blue moon as well.
When the night sky is dark with the absence of the moon’s glow, it is heartening to remember that bright supermoons are just days before and after. Likewise, it is encouraging to know that, with your support, our small light seeking to advance justice and humanity will grow.