Giving credit where credit is due:  August 19th began the Jewish month of Elul – a time for deep reflection before Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Two of the blogs I follow (and undoubtedly more) have begun to post daily using a list created by another blogger that has a specific topic for each day of the month of Elul. Click here to see the list and follow the author’s blog.

I’ve always loved this time of year. Advertising circulars that urged us to buy swimsuits, sandals, and beach chairs have given way to Sunday morning newspapers filled with ads for pencils, pens, and notebook paper. Store shelves once lined with sand buckets and shovels are now filled with binders and folders carrying pictures of the latest television show or singer (I guess Pee-Chee folders aren’t all the rage anymore). Children, teens, and adults return to school, the earth returns to its natural time, and I return to a place I’ve been only twice before.

Growing up as a Roman Catholic, this time of year held no real significance. Easter had come and gone and Thanksgiving and Christmas were soon to be. There was a chill in the air (in the small town in Iowa where I grew up) and walking down the tree-lined street in front of Corpus Christi Catholic Church/School  I could smell the onset of Fall. Soon, my classmates and I would return to our assigned seats in the church and attend daily Mass where Sister looked on making sure we weren’t talking, laughing, or passing notes. What Sister didn’t realize was that a too-large-for-her-age 4th grade girl with a red and white checkered book bag sat in the fifth pew from the front, worried that although she prayed the prayers she had memorized and attended Mass daily and on Sundays she was frightened and confused as to why she wasn’t able to feel the presence of God in her heart or her soul.

For me, discovering Judaism was connecting with the God I so desperately wanted to feel when I was a child. The pages of the Torah, the stories of our Sages, and the ritual of our liturgy reach out to my soul and cause my heart to feel a happiness that becomes evident on my face and in my words and although I experience Judaism in many ways, I do so especially as I step through the gates of Elul. As I begin my journey I not only return to a time when I first discovered my connection with God, but I look to the future and reflect on the ways in which the connection can become stronger.

I’ve always loved this time of year and now that I am a member of the People of Israel, I have another reason to look forward to the onset of Fall. During this time of new pencils, blank notebook paper, and fresh folders I oftentimes remember the too-large-for-her-age 4th grader with the red and white checkered book bag and I return to my place in the fifth row from the front. However, I am no longer a scared child so desperately trying to feel the presence of God. Instead I am a Jew who, for the third time, is returning to the beginning of the road that is Elul.