Last Sunday was Rosh Hodesh Elul. I didn't sleep well, I think because I was genuinely so excited to blow shofar. I scurried to drop each of my kids off at friends' houses so I could join in the Hallel minyan at Kol Tzedek. I arrived at 9:59am, feeling grateful that I had a minute to spare and settle. But when I got there, a few folks were talking in a huddle and the energy was calm. Where was the anticipation and urgency that usually accompanies the beginning of things?
Even though on some level it was obvious, my brain didn't quite compute what was going on. I was still thinking the minyan was starting late, rather than the more obvious truth: I had missed it.
I went to my office and began to wrap my tefillin, in preparation for prayer of one kind or another. Our shammes came in to return my computer stand, and then it really hit me. Hallel was over. I had mistakenly thought it started at 10am, when in fact it had been called for 9am.
I was disappointed. Hallel is arguably my favorite service. And I can't really sing it alone.
Rabbi Mó walked into my office, also realizing what had happened. She apologized for having misremembered the start time during Shabbat announcements the day before. (Never mind the fact that I obviously could have checked the KT calendar myself!) But then in all her wisdom, she said, "I am grateful for the chance to give you the opportunity to forgive me on the 1st of Elul."
And it really did feel like a gift. To say, I forgive you. To begin that way. And then I said, "Thank you, for giving me just the story for my upcoming Friday email."
The poet David Whyte writes, "Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving...generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves."
Throughout the Days of Awe we will sing about a God who is erekh apayim, slow to anger and quick to forgive, with the hopes that we too may be cool in our temper and rav hesed, full of compassion. But we don’t need to wait. Forgiveness is a skill. And today, in the earliest days of Elul, is just the time to practice.
Before the sun sets and invites in this first Shabbat of Elul, I invite you to extend your forgiveness to someone. It could even be yourself. And through this practice, may we come closer to the future we want for ourselves.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.