These last weeks of summer, as the days shorten and the winter chill looms, are designated in the traditional Jewish calendar as the month of Ellul. It is the last month before the New Year, set aside as a time for reflecting and for taking stock. In a few weeks we will be called on to stand together with our neighbors and seek atonement for our sins, both individual and communal. Rams’ horns will be sounded, confessions chanted, prayers offered, breasts beaten. Ellul is the quiet before that great outpouring. It is the time to sort out the things we do — and do not — regret.
The approaching Days of Awe — the New Year and the Day of Atonement — will be marked by public declarations of failing and vows of repentance. Ellul is a time to listen, to learn how one’s actions in the past year have resonated in the world, in the shaping of events, in the eyes of our neighbors and loved ones. If we listen carefully enough, there is hope that our atonement will be true.