Our sages read the month of Elul as an acrostic, א–ל–ו–ל, standing for a famous line from the Song of Songs:
אני לדודי ודודי לי/ani l’dodi v’dodi li
I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine
They were very intentionally thinking of the Divine Beloved. After the disconnection of Tisha B’Av, they saw Elul as a time to reconnect, to start making the journey home to our spiritual center, to reaffirm our connection with the All Within All.
I’d like to use this acrostic as a guide in this month of reflection, to help us bring into focus different aspects of our lives. I would recommend reading these kavannot/intention questions before sitting to meditate, and letting them seep in. You don’t necessarily need to make them the focus of your sit, per se. When we intend our minds and hearts in a direction, and then give it time to marinate, surprising things can happen below the level of conscious thought!
Week One אני/ani
Where have I strayed in my relationship to self? Have I taken the best care of myself I could have—of my body, my heart, my mind, my spirit?
What is the “me,” anyway? Do I identify too closely with my ego? The mystics often played with switching the Hebrew letters around from אני/ani/me to אין/ayin/nothingness. Is there something of my me-ness, my ego, that could use dissolving into nothingness?
Week Two לדודי/l’dodi
To/toward my Beloved. (The Hebrew prefix ל is multivalent, indicating possesion (e.g. I am my Beloved’s), but also directionality.)
One of the two categories of teshuva is Beyn adam l’makom/between human and G-d (literally “The Place”). Toward my Beloved, how have I been? Toward the Place? How is my commitment to be in relationship with Divinity?
Have I been able to get beyond myself to be in connection to the Beloved? What is my relationship like with Mother Earth?
Week Three ודודי/v’dodi
And my Beloved.
The other traditional category of teshuva is Beyn adam l’chavero/between a human and their fellow. Vav–this week’s prefix– is connection. How have my human connections been? With whom do I feel connected? Disconnected? What is the state of my primary relationships? How do I act with the person on the street?
In their wisdom, the ancient rabbis knew that this category can’t just stay inside. We need to connect: ask forgiveness and be open to offering ours.This is where the rubber of spiritual practice meets the road of our lived experience. Asking forgiveness requires vulnerability. And that’s hard.
Week Four לי/li
The relational field between humans goes beyond the individual, one-to-one connections we make, extending to the realm of community society and civilization.
How are we in relationship with society at large? What is our connection to/disconnection from social movements for change?
Can you hold that, for a moment, without judgement, so you may see clearly where you stand? What is your personal relationship to the varied systems of oppression?
Have you felt oppressed? Have you seen how you might contribute to oppression, however passively or indirectly?