Elul follows the difficult month of Av. On the 9th of Av, Jews fast and mourn, commemorating the destruction of The Temple in Jerusalem. The reading of Lamentations suggests that God is angry at the Jewish people for losing faith and for not living according to the Torah. But, there is always hope. The end of Lamentations reminds us that we can always return to God. Elul reminds us that after destruction and pain, there is hope and renewal. Similarly, in our personal lives, there is always an opportunity for growth, healing and holiness.

When I was young and my friends and I would walk fearlessly around our neighborhood… and the world felt safe and kind. I believe almost all people, despite their mixed emotions and passions, want to live in such a world and with time, patience and faith, can achieve it.
We need not know the people to our right and to our left to know that we are walking the same path in the same direction. 

It happens to be the creation of one of our Elul Thoughts contributors, Rabbi Eric Linder, and his colleague Reverend Craig Topple, and it is called God in the Grit. In it, they discuss theology and life from the point of view of two spiritual leaders of different faiths. Toward the end of their first episode, Reverend Craig says, “When someone tells you what they think about God, it tells you less about God than it tells you about them.”

A rabbi was stopped by a Russian soldier while he walking in his shtetl. The soldier aims his rifle at the rabbi and demands, “Who are you? Where are you going? Why are you going there?” Completely calm and unfazed, the rabbi asks, “How much do they pay you?” A bit surprised, the soldier responds, “Twenty-five kopecks a month.” The rabbi pauses, and in a deeply thoughtful manner says, “I have a proposal for you. I’ll pay you fifty kopecks each month if you stop me here every day and challenge me to respond to those same three questions.”

This makes me think of the Summer Olympics (happening as I write this). The athletes compete for medals and accolades, and sometimes the competition is as short as just a few seconds (I'm thinking of Usain Bolt's 100 meter run.) But we know that the real work of the athletes did not happen in Rio. The real work took place during years of intense training and discipline.