In Av we explored the meaning of Strength. Now in Elul with the Hermit, we must find the strength to Journey alone. Elul is a month of private reflection and inward turning. We turn inward, so we are ready to stand in-front of our community at the Days of Awe and state our case to be written and sealed in the Book of Life. We look inward and make private confessions before our communities leaders recite the Kol Nidre on our behalf. We look inward, before we join our community to recite the communal confessions of the Alcheit and Ashamnu.
The month of Elul leaves us with few crutches to grasp. There are no holidays. We are left to explore the dark places alone. But we must find the strength to do this, because each of us must face the New Year in our own way. No one can tell us what we must do or who we must be. The term for the Hermit in Hebrew, נָזִיר , does not just indicate one who lives alone. It really translates as “anchorite ,” and obscure English word that means: “a person who has retired to a solitary place for a life of religious seclusion” (Random House Dictionary). This is not someone who is just anti-social. It is someone who secludes themselves for spiritual reasons.
Elul is the first full month where the spiritual focus changes to Community through Resources, and yet we are given neither to enjoy. The palpable absence of holidays, only heightens our awareness of both Communal Ritual and Community Resources when we experience them in abundance Tishrei. Our time alone also allows us to linger just a bit longer with our focus on our personal connection to the Divine that has filled the summer months. As Elul is said to be an acronym of אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song of Songs 6:3), it is a reminder that we have nothing to fear in the justice of Tishrei — if we have been honest with our Beloved.
So turn inward. Light the dark places you fear to look. Be honest. Seek honesty. Remember that you are loved and treat all other creatures with love.
As we bless the Source of Life, so may we be blessed. As we bless the Source of Life, so are we blessed. (Marcia Falk, The Book of Blessings)