Approaching Elul

 On the night of August 26, the Hebrew month of Av ends, and the month of Elul begins. Elul in Jewish thought is a sacred time during which we begin in earnest the process of self-examination and reflection in preparation for Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) a month hence.

 We need this month to prepare for the grueling period of introspection that the Days of Awe (the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) should be. A sports team does not simply put on their uniforms and show up to play their first game. They prepare and practice for weeks beforehand. So it should be with us and the Days of Awe. We do not just show up and expect to be “ready to play” on Rosh Hashanah. We carefully prepare during the month of Elul by reviewing our thoughts and actions over the past year and asking ourselves, “How can we do better in the year ahead?”

 It is a worthy task that elevates our humanity. If we take it seriously, the Days of Awe themselves will be much more meaningful, and we will enter the new Year better equipped to use the talents with which God has blessed us to make on this earth a more just, caring and compassionate society!

 The moon of Av wanes rapidly,

And soon Elul arrives—

A holy month, our Sages taught,

A chance to examine our lives.

 We prepare ourselves for the Days of Awe

The Holy Days just ahead.

We look at our thoughts, our words, our deeds,

“What might we have done instead?”

 To better live true to the Covenant

The Almighty asks we uphold

To work to create a better world

As our lives unfold.

 Will our world be a kinder realm

Because God planted us here?

Will we strive to make the earth a place

Where no one needs to fear?

 As the moon of Av wanes rapidly

And sacred Elul arrives

May these be the questions we ask ourselves

As we examine our lives!


Health Care: A Privilege or a Right?

         On Passover, we free ourselves — and seek to free others — from slavery.  Today, many are enslaved by inadequate health care. Passover calls on us to struggle for their freedom!

       I had finally gotten into the endotontist’s chair after a night and half a day of intense pain. The staff prepped me, and the doctor made a cursory examination. “I’ll look further to confirm my diagnosis,” he said” but I think the tooth is cracked and will have to come out.” Then he gave me a most welcome injection of Novocain to numb the area, and ease the pain. The doctor said he would return in a few minutes after the Novocain took effect to examine the tooth thoroughly to see if it could be saved. During the “Novocain intermission” the dental assistant came in with a consent form. It indicated that if the tooth could be salvaged, the root canal procedure would cost $1300 and invited me to sign a treatment consent form acknowledging that fact.

         What choice did I really have? With the pain that I had experienced during the previous 36 hours, I would have signed any form that offered a reasonable chance of relief.

         Now, because I am the husband of a former Hartford City Public School teacher, my coverage includes “full dental” which made the $1300 charge moot. But even if I did not have coverage — even though I would feel a pinch — I could manage the $1300 without lasting damage to my family’s financial situation or lifestyle. Far too many others across our land, though, are not so blessed.

         Was it my privilege to be relieved of my acute dental pain because I am financially solvent? Or should such relief be a basic right?There can be no doubt about the answer in this land of the free and home of the brave! Adequate health care should be the right of every man, woman and child!

           Now we must find the way to make it happen. We must make  the freedom of adequate health care available to all.  From the standpoint of Jewish tradition, failure to do so because some lack the means is a sin (DT 15:9). But if we find a way to provide all of God’s children with this and other basic necessities of life then the Torah promises: “The Eternal One our God will bless us in all in all of our deeds and all our undertakings.” (Deuteronomy 15:10)

It is a wonderful blessing! It is a blessing we should strive unstintingly to achieve at Passover and throughout the year!