Parshat Ki Teitzei: Elul Zman in a Messy Year

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Courtesy of Fierstien

We are slowly moving into the heart of the Hebrew month of Elul, which is traditionally a time of deep introspection in preparation for the upcoming High Holiday experience.

While we have been navigating the chaos of life in a pandemic, the stress of monotony and lack of socialization have taken a severe toll on our collective morale and mental health. Personally, this stressful time has shaken my foundations and has forced me to assess how my family can function in a world where we cannot easily call upon friends and neighbors for support, and where even asking for a cup of milk is fraught with risk assessments.


In his book, “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared,” Rabbi Alan Lew outlines a process of spiritual and personal growth during the Elul Zman (the time of Elul) that is meant to help transform us into awe-filled beings steeped in wonder about life and the world that surrounds us. Ideally, we would be exploring the themes of forgiveness, repentance and mortality from the comfort and warmth of our chosen synagogue communities. However, because of “The Sick,” we are unable to find comfort and safety in our communal spaces for the foreseeable future.

Instead, I offer my hope and prayer that we can use this holy time to collect ourselves and take a deep communal breath together. Perhaps we can leave the introspective deep dive for next year when we can hopefully gather together again in person and spread over ourselves a shelter of peace and health.


For this year, I pray that we instead focus our energy on supporting each other through this mess as best we can. May you and your loved ones have a meaningful and healthy Elul Zman and may we all join together in safety and health. As one of my personal heroes, Bill S. Preston Esq., likes to say, “Be excellent to each other.”

Rabbi Jeremy Fierstien is the rabbi and executive director of UMBC Hillel. He is obsessed with finding ways to keep Jewish tradition relevant and meaningful to young adults.

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