The San Quentin Jewish Community entered the High Holiday period in the Hebrew month of Elul, which began the first week of August. Elul is a time of introspection and spiritual preparation for Rosh Hashanah (the Day of Judgment) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we are instructed to ask forgiveness and make amends for the harm we did to others in the past year.
Each week during the month of Elul we focused on a specific character trait and observed our behavior in our daily life. Our model was God’s response to Moses in the book of Exodus, after Moses asked to see God’s face: “Adonai, Adonai, a God Compassionate and Gracious, Long Suffering in anger, Abounding in Kindness and Truth, Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.”
Help Us Understand
These verses help us to understand what it means to be “made in God’s image” — we are capable of developing these traits in ourselves, if we are willing to see our character flaws and work toward transforming them.
Saturday evening, September 4 we observed Selichot, a ritual in which we forgive others who have harmed us in the past year. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah the following week, finishing with Tashlikh at the chapel area pond where we symbolically “cast our sins into the sea.” The next Sabbath was the “Sabbath of Repentance” and we read selections from the Prophets which assure us that God responds to our genuine repentance with mercy.
Completed Our Cycle
Friday evening, September 17 we performed Kol Nidrei, a ritual in which we ask God to erase any unfulfilled vows we made to Him in the past year. The next day we completed our cycle with Yom Kippur, during which we stand before God as the Children of Israel and say, “We accept Your Judgment, but we pray for Your Mercy.”
May we all have a sweet, healthy and productive New Year in 5771!