It is said during Elul that “the King is in the Field,” that the presence of God is very near to us, on the same plane that we exist upon, as opposed high and lifted upon a throne as during the High Holidays. This closeness is meant to inspire teshuva (turning to the proper path, aka “repentance”) out of love, not fear; Elul can be read as an acronym for “ani l’dodi v’dodi li” (I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine,” a phrase from Song of Songs.
Elul is the month associated with the mazal (constellation) of Virgo, the Mutable Earth (Transformative Manifestation) sign, whose function is that of sifting, analyzing and choosing that which is useful while discarding that which, while perhaps pretty or pleasant, does not serve the highest purpose.
This year, Rosh Chodesh Elul, a solar eclipse and the Torah portion Re’eh all occured on the same day (Saturday, August 11). The light of the Sun is blocked during a solar eclipse, making it harder to see (re’eh). The primitive psychological experience of an eclipse is heightened anxiety as the light is diminished, followed by relief at the light’s return. During the brief but dramatic episode of darkness, we face our own shadowy fears. When we can see again, we see things differently. May we see each other and ourselves in a new light, and may the light of Elul illuminate our path as we make our way towards Rosh Hashanah!