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Elul: If Not Now, When?

September 1, 2019 | by Emuna Braverman

Our opportunities for growth won’t be here forever. If I want to grow, the time is now.

I saw an older man wearing a T-shirt today with an interesting slogan: “Inside this older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.”

Wow, I could really relate to that. The time has really flown by. As I watch my children graduate college and/or raise their own families, I am reminded of the passage of time. It’s not that I think that I am 25; I’m just sometimes shocked to think that 36 years have passed since I was! As the T-shirt says...

With the Jewish month of Elul arriving, the month of preparation for the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the message has more resonance. Instead of just being a humorous saying, it’s a provocation to reflection. Did I use those years well? Did I use them in such a way that I merit more? (Is there anything I can do to slow down the clock?).

Recognizing the swiftness of the passage of time should motivate us to be more cognizant of how we spend it. It should be incentive not to waste it, not to avoid the messy and uncomfortable issues we need to face, to deal with our weaknesses and challenges now rather than punting to some future date.

Every year at this time, in some way I realize the importance of committing anew to growth and change. I accept Hillel’s philosophy as expressed in Ethics of Our Fathers, “If not now, when?” I know that time doesn’t slow down but rather speeds up. That’s why we wonder what the heck happened! And since that’s true, the time to act is now.

None of us knows how much time the Almighty will grant us. The loss of anyone close to us reminds us of life’s preciousness as well as its fleeting nature. Our opportunities for growth won’t be here forever. If I want to change, if I want to grow, the time is now.

Why do I feel like I wrote the same thing last Rosh Hashanah? Because I probably did. But, at this moment, spurred on by a trivial silly shirt and a profound deeper loss, this time – to quote the ending one of Rabbi Weinberg’s favorite stories: this time I mean it!!

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