Happy fall everyone!
After a summer away from the blog, I'm thrilled to be posting again. The baristas at my local Starbucks here in Reston, VA have heralded my return with generic jazz and decafs - it's good to be home. :)
Yesterday evening, I officiated at a wedding at the historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown. As I stood together with the bride and groom under their wedding canopy, I spoke to them about their auspicious wedding date. We are in the Hebrew month of Elul, after all, the month leading up to the High Holidays. Jewish couples for millennia have vied for wedding dates in this month bridging summer to fall, and not just because, with the summer's swelter diminished, we can hit the dance floor without schvitzing through our suits.
What's so wonderful about Elul? Why set a wedding date just weeks before the Jewish New Year?
Elul finds many Jews drafting New Year's resolutions. We apologize for the misdeeds of the previous year and take aim, once more, at our best selves. Such collective karma provides fertile ground for young love to bloom. Marriage vows uttered in Elul ride the momentum of our highest hopes. As the Jewish People embarks on a once-a-year program of self-improvement, bride and groom forever link their private commitment with this communal aspiration.
The Talmud, also, teaches that Elul is actually an acronym. The four Hebrew letters that spell "Elul" stand for a four-word phrase from the Bible's Song of Songs: Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li - I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. Elul returns us to our beloved. Who is this beloved of ours? Our ancient sages give us one answer: God. Elul clears away the past year's underbrush, revealing a prayer-paved path to our Creator.
I yearn for God, and hope my spiritual efforts in Elul will produce a more intimate relationship with the Source. However, I also see Elul as an opportunity to connect, and reconnect, with my flesh and blood beloveds.
Last night, for instance, my wife, my beloved Sara, joined me at the wedding. We stayed at the reception long past the dessert course, swaying and two-stepping to bluegrass tunes from the Green Boys (a phenomenal wedding band!). After an August of running after our children and scrambling to prepare ourselves for the coming school year, we reminded ourselves that a functional marriage, full of shopping lists, soccer games, and the occasional HBO-GO binge, can also be a love simple and sweet.
Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li - I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. We receive an invitation, this month of Elul, to return to the one we love. May our return find us winking at our beloveds - our beloved Creator, our beloved partners, and our beloved best selves.