ELUL TOOLS #1: September 30

ELUL TOOLS #2: August 31


President Stuart Sweet says:

This is one of the most exciting times of the year. This is a time where we see old friends and make new ones. For many people, it defines congregational life. This year, so much has changed both inside and outside our synagogue. It\’s hard to believe only a year has passed.

Let\’s take this time before High Holy Days to reflect on what\’s really important. As the world becomes less and less certain, you need to know that there is a place where you\’re safe, where you\’re welcomed, and where you\’re loved. Congregation Emanu El is that place, for everyone who wants to celebrate and share. I hope you\’ll join us on Friday nights and throughout the days of awe.



Rabbi Lindy Reznick says:

Today is the first day of Elul! A new beginning, a time to heal & prepare for our spiritual & communal re-birthing! Pick up the phone today…call someone you’ve been wanting to connect with! Build a bridge, mend a conflict, or just say I love you! Elul heals here we come 5780!

Elul Tools #4: September 2


Heidi Nimmo says:

Look to Shekinah;
be strong and of good courage!
O look to Shekinah!

–Psalm 27: 14

Being human requires tremendous courage. Fear, a strong unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen is a common human experience.

While legitimate dangers abound, Shekinah is ever present to offer comforting, unconditional love bringing inner shalom. Within her embrace immediate danger can’t end, but we can temper our expectation that something bad is going to happen.

Staying present in the moment is much more comfortable when I remember the feminine Devine and let myself feel her embrace.

May the light, love, energy, spirit and mystery of Shekinah bring courage to each of us.

Elul Tools #5: September 3



Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Irwin Keller writes about Elul \”as a mikveh in time. A great pool of mayim chayim, of living waters, into which we can for a short time dissolve.” What is Elul is our warm up for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This way when we arrive at the holidays we are are completing our work instead of starting it. We are open and ready for the inspiration that our holidays can bring. We can experience the joy and elation instead of feel dread about the heavy work awaiting us. When we immerse our bodies in a mikveh we emerge renewed, refreshed and in a different spiritual state. Let us roll up our sleeves, begin our teshuva, and immerse ourselves in the healing waters of Elul.



President Stuart Sweet writes:

As the year comes to a close, you could look at this moment two ways. You could say, it\’s a time to look back at what your life has been over the last 12 months. Or, you can say, it\’s a time to look forward at the kind of people we want to be.

I say, why not do both? Let us hope that our decisions in the next year are better, that our lives are happier, and that we are all a little bit closer. And let\’s make that happen BECAUSE we are aware of our shared past, not DESPITE it.



Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Maimonides tells us “Do not imagine that character is determined at birth. We have been given free will. Any person can become righteous as Moses or as wicked at Jeroboam. We ourselves decide whether to make ourselves learned or ignorant, compassionate or cruel, generous or miserly. No one forces us, no one drags us along one path or another. We ourselves, by our own volition, choose our own way. (Maimonides 12th Century) I challenge you to take one action today that makes you righteous like Moses.


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

A meaningful form of reflection that I use firing the 10 days of awe, Yamim Noraim, is the online forum call Do You 10Q. It’s inspiring to re-read from the year before your answers to inspiring questions & reflect each day during this year. As part of your Elul Prep. Sign up for do you 10q.



School Director Marcela Lavi writes:

Elul is the last month of the year, a time to look back at the year, at our family: how much the kids grew and learned how much we as a family achieved. It is also the time to look forward, to the New Year. Set new goals, make new decisions.

Ask yourself, what goals did I achieve this past year? What made me feel good about my parenting?

What new goals I want to set up for the upcoming year? How can I be a better parent for my child?

A nice way to spend time together with our kids is cooking tasty treats; here is a link to some Rosh Hashanah yummy recipes


Elul Tools #11: September 9


Second Vice President Susan Damron writes:


Each day I sit in my garden before the heat begins. I enjoy the cool air and the morning light. I sit without expectation, and without plan. I let go of my “to do” list. I sit quietly, or sometimes I get up and walk slowly around my yard. Without fail, I am entranced by something unexpected. Yesterday, it was a tiny baby lizard climbing up the trunk of a tree rose. What a miracle! What a blessing to be able to see the miracle and mystery of this being—and of all being. I am filled with awe, as I prepare for the Days of Awe.

What fills you with awe and wonder during this month of Elul?



President Stuart Sweet writes:

As we look back during the month of Elul, we should all think about our families. Family doesn\’t have to mean someone you\’re related to. It can mean anyone in your live who makes you feel safe and loved.

Who\’s in your family? This is a perfect time to reach out to them and let them know how grateful you are to them.

ELUL TOOLS #13: September 11


Today is the 11th of Elul…it is also the 11th of September. Today we remember those lives lost 18 years ago on 9/11.

Elul is the month of “teshuva\”, This means return. We return to our highest selves who are at peace.
Today do something to bring about peace and tolerance in your world. Offer a prayer of love or peace.Speak to someone who has different ideas than you. Promote tolerance and love.

Pirkei Avot 4:1 “Who is wise, one who learns from every man.\”

Rabbi Lindy Reznick
Cantor Jennifer Bern-Vogel



Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

This inspiration is informed by Simon Jacobson’s book on 60 days, a spiritual guide to the high holydays.

In Exodus Moses asks to see God’s face. God responds by saying Moses can only see his reflection. \”You’ll see my face by not looking”
In our lives there are those things we see with our eyes, but the deeper things we see often are when our eyes are closed and we go inward.
Elul is a time to look inward, to seek out our deeper wisdom which is the God within.
The lesson here is to get our eyes out of the way, use our deeper inner wisdom and see by not looking.

Think about a time in your life when you were able to go within to find the answer, instead of letting the external world deceive you. How can you cultivate hearing that voice?

ELUL TOOLS #15: September 13


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Tradition teaches that we read Psalm 27 daily from the beginning of Elul all the way to Rosh Hashanah. This Psalm speaks of our human relationship with fear, our need for hope and comfort, and our calling out to God. Peruse this incredible translation written by my teacher of blessed memory Rabbi Richard Levy…


Elul Tools #16: September 14

\"\"Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

The holidays are a great time to get into the kitchen with your family and explore Jewish cooking, while making memories. Many of my earliest holiday memories are baking with my mom, honey cakes, cookies, large holiday meals. As I create memories for my own children now I try to encourage creative moments in the kitchen. Check out this Rosh Hashanah recipe…


Elul Tools #17: September 15


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

At a recent funeral I learned about this father’s consistent way of staying connected. He would talk with his children daily, sometimes for only 5 minutes. Butch knew that it was through these unimportant moments that we allow for connection with each other, that daily contact was a way to stay involved with one another’s lives happenings. Don’t wait, pick up the phone today and reach out to that old friend, distant relative, wish them a happy new year. Who knows what might happen…


ELUL TOOLS #18: September 16

\"\"Cantor Jennifer Bern-Vogel writes:

[Help us to return to You, O Lord; then truly shall we return. Renew our days as in the past.]

These are the concluding words of our weekly Torah service and are also an important theme of our High Holy Days. The days of Elul help prepare us to do T’shuvah – turn old habits around, offer apologies, return, change and start again…this is never easy to do, but unless we make the effort to turn, we will be forever trapped in yesterday’s ways…

May we turn from callousness to sensitivity, hostility to love, pettiness to purpose, envy to contentment, carelessness to discipline, fear to faith. Turn us around, O God and bring us back toward You.

[w/excerpts from Sha’arei Selichah]

Elul Tools #19: September 17


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Rabbi Alan Lew’s book, \”This Is Real, and You Are Completely Unprepared.” he asked the following: What unfinished business is giving us a torn mind, \”tearing our focus away from the present-tense reality of our experience, from the present moment, the only place where we can live our lives.\” (p 84-85) What a beautiful question to ask ourselves at this time of year. I find the emotional baggage we carry around is much heavier than any physical stuff.

I offer you a Mussar practice today,Let go of something in your life. What are you holding on to that no longer serves you? It might be \”stuff,\” something virtual, or it might be something emotional, like decades of resentment, anger, or relationships that don’t serve you. My goal is to let go of stuff that has been shlepped from one home to another, and some emotional baggage.
Elul gives us an opportunity to spend a month working our way up to change. You don\’t need to change everything, but one small and lasting change is priceless.

Get the book here. 

Elul Tools #20, September 18:


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Our sixth commandment is “Honor thy father and mother.” At this time of year I always think about this commandment. As we prepare for a season of holidays, a time we spend with family. Recently I had a conversation with a friend about her family heritage. I realized how much I do not know about my families history. In Elul as we further deepen our relationships I encourage you to look into your family history, reach out to an older member who has the pieces of history you may not have. Try to connect the dots of your heritage together. You never know where this journey may take you and your family.

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ELUL TOOLS #21, September 19


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Rabbi Eric Lankin tells this story:\”A woman hung on her mantelpiece a needlework piece that said “Prayer changes things.” A few days later, the art piece was missing. The woman asked her husband where it was. He said he took it down because he didn’t like it. The woman asked why. She said don’t you believe prayer changes things? Yes I do he said, but it just so happens I don’t like change, so I threw it away.\”

Change is hard for all of us. That is why we have a month to prepare for the difficult work of this season. I encourage you to make one small baby step, towards a change that you’d like to make. I will be working on my self talk this year, keeping it kind and positive. What small change do you want to make? May we each be surprised about the good that this small change can make int he coming year. Commit to letting friend know what that change is so they can hold you accountable and check in on your change.

ELUL TOOLS #22, September 20


Dr. Susan Damron writes:

At first I am barely aware of the single strand of spider silk suspended over the rose bushes, dropping down from the trees above. As the strand rises and falls on the breeze, the morning light dances along its length, briefly illuminating its presence. It disappears and then reappears again. As I look more closely, I see other silk threads, forming more connections that are almost invisible.

How are you connected by unseen threads to your loved ones, to the community, to the natural world, to what inspires and nourishes you? What connections of the heart, mind, and soul have you lost sight of? What can you do to rediscover and strengthen these connections during this month of Elul?

ELUL TOOLS #23: September 21


Michelle Anctil, volunteer Cantorial Soloist, writes:

Non-Euclidean Geometry

It has been said, that when two Jews come together, you’ll find six opinions, so remember that you are entitled to at least three of your own. Keep that in mind, as you reflect upon yourself and your world this Elul. Not everything proceeds in a straight line, and there is much which cannot be defined by a checklist.

Elul Tools #24, SEPTEMBER 22


Nancy N. Sidhu writes:

The Master Juggler tosses us into the New Year.
Falling, falling, we hold our breaths,
We make plans and promises,
We vow to forget what we need to forget
And remember what we need to keep.

Here’s our chance.
Here’s the world’s chance.
We’ll do it right this time.
We’ll make peace this time,
In the home, in the world, in our hearts.
We’ll water the trees and make room for turtles.
This time we’ll make it.

Elul Tools #25, September 24


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

A story is told by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1810) about a man who studied with our master and teacher Rabbi Yitzchak of Nedborna. Before Rosh Hashanah, the man came to his teacher to ask permission to leave early. Rabbi Yitzchak said to him, “What’s your hurry?” He replied, “I am a shaliach tzibur (prayer leader) and I need to examine the machzor and prepare my prayers.” Rabbi Yitzchak said, “The machzor is the same as last year in God’s eyes. Better that you should examine your deeds and prepare yourself!”

Where were you spiritually last year at this time? Where are you today? How are you different? Part of the process of teshuva is looking back in order to be aware of our present. This work enables us to think about the changes we wish to work towards for 5780. Where do you wish to be a year from now? Write and reflect on these questions. Save them for you to look at next year


Elul Tools #26, September 24:


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

Elul is also about recognizing that which we do that keeps us on a positive spiritual path. Taking time to connect with God, quiet ourselves and listen can help us to hear God’s voice. Alden Solovy writes these beautiful words to help us.

Divine voice of reason and love,
Of compassion and understanding;
Speak gently and clearly, so that I may know Your will.
Give me the patience to listen and the desire to seek
Your counsel and instruction.
Grant me the understanding to hear Your teachings in
every voice,
From all people,
In every moment of need.
Open my heart to others,
To their suffering,
To their call for help.
Open my heart to love and laughter,
Song and dance,
Beauty and grace,
So that I remember to celebrate Your gifts day by day.

ELUL TOOLS #27, September 25


Rabbi Lindy Reznick writes:

\”I am my beloved, and my beloved is mine,” \”Ani l’dodi v’dodi li.. This phrase is used in Jewish weddings as a phrase that speaks about love. It is also an acronym for Elul.
The month of introspection that we are in now. If we look at God as our beloved, as our sacred partner in life, we can realize that we are never alone,
Never without guidance or support. God waits for us to ask or reach out for the support we need. Try meditating, sitting quietly or writing and asking for
The support or guidance your are in need of. When you are done take note throughout the week if that support came to you, and how.

Elul Tools #28, September 26


Nancy N. Sidhu writes:

The caterpillar makes himself a chrysalis for the impossible transformation. We don’t know how to become butterflies. It would be good if we could shimmy out of our old skin and emerge as new, like the snake. But we are only human. Let’s meet at the coffee shop, sit around the big table, and consider together who we will be in 5780.




SJL Director Marcela Lavi teaches us (and helpfully translates from Hebrew):

Honour your (thy) father and your (thy) mother.
We are so busy raising our own children and on us growing up that we sometimes forget our parents that are getting older.




There\’s a great site that is very popular with Jews this time of year. DoYou10Q will email you one question a day for 10 days and then save the answers for you. After a year, you\’ll be sent those answers and have the chance to start all over again.

If your personal relationship with Judaism includes using a computer or mobile device during high holy days, we highly recommend it.


ELUL TOOLS #31, September 29


Dear friends,

It has been my pleasure to provide you with a month of Elul Tools! Thank you so much to Rabbi Lindy Reznick, Cantor Jennifer Bern Vogel, Heidi Nimmo, Dr. Susan Damron, Michelle Anctil and Nancy Sidhu for amazing and inspiring thoughts!

The complete list of \”Elul Tools\” for this year will be archived here: https://emanuelsb.org/elul-tools-5779/ for all to see.

I look forward to personally greeting you tonight at Erev Rosh Hashanah Services starting at 7:00pm at Congregation Emanu El!

Stuart Sweet, President