The Ups and Downs of Elul

I always have the best of intentions and plans for Elul.  Really I do.  I usually plan a new class or book to read on it.  I look forward to the month anticipating all the wonderful deep spiritual work I’m going to do.

And then, it always seems like life happens.

Elul is the season in our family the past couple of years of health issues.  My husband had his triple bypass the day after Rosh Hashanah, so most of our Elul was taken up by doctor’s appointments and preparations for his surgery last year.  This year, I’m going through some issues with my spine that might require surgery, so, that again is taking up quite a bit of time and room in my head.

Generally, if things are going to get crazy for our family, it’s going to happen in Elul.  Every year it’s something different, but every year I’m given some kind of challenge that means I have to adjust my plans for Elul.  I have to be flexible about what I’d wanted to do to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and instead fit some extra study in between whatever else is going on.

I think there’s a lesson in there.

My plans each year for Elul are my plans, based on what I want to do to prepare…but are those Hashem’s plans for me?  If my biggest stumbling block is letting go of trying to control my life and instead surrendering to Hashem’s will, is my detailed study and prayer plan really me doing that or me just creating my own structure that feeds my ego to think I’m doing what I need to do?  Maybe whatever I’m given to do during Elul is what Hashem sees that I most need to be doing.

Perhaps last year, what I most needed to work on was caring for my husband and deepening my connection to him and service to him.  Maybe I needed to work on appreciating the gifts of good health more and also learn to let go and let others help me.  Perhaps last year all those lessons were more important than what I’d planned to study.  Maybe this year, I’m needing to learn to slow down a little and take better care of myself.  Maybe I need to learn to trust my family to care for me more and stop trying to do so much all on my own?

It could be that each Elul Hashem has His own study plan for me and that it doesn’t match up with the plan I think I should be doing.  I still try to fit in more study, more tzedekah, and more prayer, but I also accept that whatever has come up in my life may also be important and that I do need to let go of my own rigid plans and expectations.

Maybe one day I’ll get to follow my plan, but for now, I’m following His.

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