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To Console Helps to Soften

09/05/2019 08:00:16 AM


Rabbi Ron Segal

Today (Thursday) is the 6th day of Elul, the final month in the Hebrew calendar prior to Rosh Hashanah and the start of a New Year. Jewish tradition lifts up the spiritual significance of this month, challenging us to approach each of Elul’s 29 days with intentionality and an appreciation of the possibility of self-transformation. I have long held that the spiritual potential and experience of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have a great deal to do with the manner in which we prepare ourselves for these holiest of days during Elul. 

In his Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays, Simon Jacobson provides Judaic context, spiritual intention, words of text, and a personal exercise for each of the 29 days of Elul. For today, the 6th day of Elul, the author focuses specifically on the quality of consolation, writing that “...We have the power to bond with each other and to console each other… This [God-given] gift is one that we can give to another.”  

Jacobson invites personal introspection with questions that struck me as particularly poignant this week:

»    Have you developed the sensitivity to console others in times of sorrow in their lives?
»    Do you seek out opportunities to offer consolation or do you shy away from such occasions?

So much sadness has been wrought this past week from Hurricane Dorian’s devastation and mounting loss of life in the Bahamas, the terrorism and tragic loss of life in West Texas, the dreadful and deadly boat accident in California, the countless incidents throughout our country and world that have abruptly - often tragically - claimed too many lives, and certainly the passing of our own loved ones and friends. One cannot help but feel the pervasive sadness crying out from so many places and know that sincere and heartfelt consolation are necessary.  

Today, let the questions above inspire not just introspection but also action. Of course, reach out to friends and loved ones who have experienced a loss. But perhaps we can also take a few moments to send a note, make a call, or find other ways to let others know as well that we are sending them our sincere sympathies and strength. Softening our hearts and spirits throughout Elul is a meaningful and impactful way to prepare for the start of a New Year. Sharing words of consolation and letting loved ones and even complete strangers (through a little online research) know that we are sorry for their pain and sadness is surely one way to help with that softening. May acts of consolation lead to greater compassion, and greater compassion to enduring kindness. 

Sun, February 23 2020 28 Sh'vat 5780