by Rabbi Doniel Kramer at UJA-Mail
This Shabbat also is Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of new month of Elul. Observed on both Saturday and Sunday, the month of Elul ushers in the final month of the year prior to Rosh Hashanah.
Our Rabbis teach us that Elul is an acronym for a phrase from the Biblical book of the Song of Songs, "Ani ledodi vedodi li"--"I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me." It depicts the spousal relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish people. It should be one of love, dedication and commitment. As we begin to prepare for the High Holy Days, a sense of trust and mutual admiration and affection that should mark the relationship between two individuals in a marriage, we also pray, will be indicative of the relationship that we have with the Almighty.
It is strange, however, that this week's Torah portion speaks of a different relationship with the Almighty--"Banim atem...--"You are children of the Lord your God." This relationship is a filial one--depicting a parent-child connection that entails different expectations and responsibilities on the part of both parent and child. Here, as the children of the Almighty, we have obligations incumbent upon the Jewish people that we have accepted through the commandments of the Torah.
Thus one relationship is equal; the other--hierarchical. This duality is instructive for the Jew during this pivotal month. When, like obedient children, we can fulfill the Almighty's commandments, the inherent nature of that relationship can evolve into one of mutual sharing and commitment.
In our UJA federation system likewise, we seek to accomplish this dual mission. At times, through our assistance, we try to provide the building blocks and basic needs to develop a meaningful framework for nascent and resurgent Jewish communities. With the passage of time, we are hoping these communities will become self-sufficient and evenbe able to provide succor to others. We see this most clearly in our evolving relationship with the people and the State of Israel. Whereas, in the early years of the State, and surely beforehand, our full support was necessary for a nascent nation to begin to develop, fifty years later, as Israel enjoys its Jubilee, Diaspora communities, especially in the U.S., want to mutually share with the State of Israel our collective experiences and desires. Each community has strengths and weaknesses, and we need to draw upon each other.
While Elul begins with a filial relationship, as the month progresses, may our relationship with the Almighty and with our fellow Jews around the world truly prove to be a loving, spousal one.
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach--a peaceful and blessed Sabbath, and Hodesh Tov--a good new month!