The month of Elul is a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In Aramaic (the language spoken by Jews living at the time that the months were given names), the word “Elul” means “search.” The Talmud writes that the Hebrew word "Elul" can be expanded as an acronym for "Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li" - "I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me." Elul is seen as a time to search one's heart and draw close to God in preparation for the coming Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah, and Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.
During the month of Elul, there are a number of special rituals leading up to the High Holy Days. It is customary to blow the shofar every morning (except on Shabbat) from Rosh Hodesh Elul (the first day of the month) until the day before Rosh Hashanah. The blasts are meant to awaken one's spirits and inspire him to begin the soul searching which will prepare him for the High Holy Days. As part of this preparation, Elul is the time to begin the sometimes-difficult process of granting and asking for forgiveness. It is also customary to recite Psalm 27 every day from Rosh Hodesh Elul through Hoshanah Rabbah on Sukkot (in Tishrei).
Aside from the blowing of the shofar, the other major ritual practice during Elul is to recite selichot (special penitential prayers) either every morning before sunrise during the week before the last Wednesday before Rosh Hashanah (Ashkenazi tradition) or every morning during the entire month of Elul (Sephardi tradition).
Many Jews also visit the graves of loved ones throughout the month in order to remember and honor those people in our past who inspire us to live more fully in the future.
Another social custom is to begin or end all letters written during the month of Elul with wishes that the recipient have a good year. The standard blessing is "K'tiva V'Hatima Tova" ("a good writing and sealing [of judgement]"), meaning that the person should be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. Tradition teaches that on Rosh Hashanah, each person is written down for a good or a poor year, based on their actions in the previous one, and their sincere efforts at atoning for mistakes or harm. On Yom Kippur, that fate is "sealed."
The Jewish month of Elul is traditionally a time for personal reflection and spiritual preparation for the New Year. It offers a structured opportunity to examine what is holding us back from being who we really want to be. If we use the period of Elul to take concrete steps towards becoming advocates for change, together we can make a difference!
Here are a few ways to begin changing the things you want for this upcoming year:
Relationship With God
Tradition: The word Elul can be understood as an acronym for the Hebrew verse Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li--"I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me."
Suggestion: Think about your relationship with whatever you conceive of as the Divine Presence. Try to imagine a more intimate relationship, as if God were your beloved. You might want to write a letter addressed to this Beloved in which you speak as you would to a close friend. You may want to honor yourself as "created in God's image" by treating yourself as you would treat a beloved.
Tradition: The teshuvah [repentance] process operates on two levels, one involving human relationships and the other involving our relationship with God. According to tradition, one resolves human relationships during Elul by asking forgiveness for wrong doings. If one earnestly asks three times, the obligation is fulfilled.
Suggestion: As part of your teshuvah process try to sort out difficult relationships (with people, organizations) that drain you of your creative energy. Think about what kind of closure you need in order to move forward into the next year.
Tradition: The shofar (ram's horn) is blown at the conclusion of every weekday morning prayer service during Elul.
Suggestion: Use this month to listen for the shofar's rousing call. Carve out some time to think through the kinds of changes you want to make in the coming year. What's holding you back?
Tradition: Psalm 27--which begins with the words "God is my light and my helper, whom shall I fear?"--is recited every day from Rosh Hodesh Elul (the beginning of the month) through the middle of Sukkot (the Festival of Booths).
Suggestion: Honor the fact that change can involve fear. Think about keeping an Elul journal to help revive your internal dialogue. You may want to use some or all of Psalm 27 as a departure point for meditation and/or writing. Books like The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron may also be useful tools.
Tradition: Kol Nidre (the first prayer recited on the eve of Yom Kippur) serves to annul all existing vows and prepare us to begin the New Year with a clean slate. The Al Chet prayer enumerates the specific ways we have missed the mark.
Suggestion: Take some time to re-evaluate your participation in the community. Try to be more conscious of how you spend your time and money. Do your calendar and checkbook reflect your values and priorities?
Rosh Hashanah is a universal holiday and every one is invited to their own personal prayer. This year Neshama Center Aspen encourages us to all unite our prayers.
Traditionally, those who are outside of Israel direct their prayers East, towards Israel, those who are in Israel direct their prayers towards Jerusalem and those in Jerusalem direct their prayers to the Temple. This Rosh Hashanah let us direct our prayers toward each other, from my heart to your heart so that we will all be one.
Join us in praying from our hearts for the world this Rosh Hashanah on September 24 and 25 at The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen.
Lag Ba'omer is a holiday that traces back not to antiquity, but to the Middle Ages, this year it is on Sunday May 18. Marked on the 18th day of the Jewish month of Iyar, Lag BaOmer has another significance based on the Kabbalistic custom of assigning a Sefirah to each day and week of the Omer count. As such, Lag BaOmer represents the level of spiritual manifestation or Hod that would precede the more physical manifestation of the 49th day (Malkhut she-be-Malkhut, Kingship within [the week of] Kingship), which immediately precedes the holiday of Shavuot.
The most well known custom of Lag BaOmer is the lighting of bonfires throughout Israel and worldwide. The fire symbolizes the light that is wisdom, spread by the great Rabbi bar Yochai. In Meron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Eleazar, hundreds of thousands of Jews gather throughout the night and day to celebrate with bonfires, torches, songs and feasts, this was a specific request by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's students. Some say that as bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings. As his passing left such a "light" behind, many candles and/or bonfires are lit.
Festivities include making a bonfire and roasting potatoes, franks, marshmallows and other fire-friendly foods on the flames.
(Israel Independence Day) Israel's 66th Birthday and Mother's Day Celebration:
UJA (United Jewish Appeal)
Aspen Jewish Congregation
Chabad Jewish Community Center
IHouse (Israeli House in the Valley)
and Neshama Center...
kindly invite you to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence) and Mother's Day on Sunday, May 11 from 2-5pm in Paepcke Park on Main Street in Aspen. (In case of rain or snow we will move to the Red Grill Restaurant at the Golf course)
Fun for the entire Community!!!
There will be DJ Music, Activities for Kids, Arts and Crafts, BBQ, Falafel and Israeli Food, Face painting, House of Bounce and more...
In honor of all the mothers around the world especially in our valley and everyone is welcome!
Sponsored by: United Jewish Appeal Aspen Valley, Chabad Aspen, Aspen Jewish Congregation and Neshama Center
Neshama Center and Shlomo are so excited to once again have the opportunity to share with the Aspen Community a meaningful, spiritual and delicious Passover Seder at The Little Nell's Element 47.
The Seder will be on April 14 at 5:30pm.
Check out the attached menus below!
To make reservations please call 970-920-6330.
Purim is just a few days away, be sure to join Neshama Center for our carnival and MORE!
Purim began during the time span between the destruction of the first temple and before the second temple was built, it happened because of a time in history when the Jewish people lived in doubt with themselves, they had lost their identity. They all became egotistic and being egotistic is how a human becomes weak. Hamen saw this as a good opportunity to convince the King to kill and exile the Jewish People. The nature of human beings is to care and fend for ourselves when we are having a hard time but the moment all the Jews decided to come together and care for each other, support each other and understand each other they became strong again.
Once the Jewish people decided to work together they became strong and changed their future. They went from being alone and fending for themselves to working together. When we work together we are able to attain double the achievements.
This is the reason that on Purim everything is DOUBLED! We engage in DOUBLE the giving, we make Purim baskets (misloach manot), which are given to both our friends and to those who are less fortunate than us. We provide DOUBLE the support to our loved ones and strangers. We ourselves even become "DOUBLE," by putting on a mask we become who we are and who we want to be. Purim is celebrated for TWO days and we read the Magillah TWICE. Purim falls in the astrological symbol of Pisces, the image associated with Pisces is TWO fish. In the Jewish calendar Purim is in the month of Adar, Adar is the only month in the Jewish calendar that can be TWO months.
The biggest mitzvah on Purim is to DOUBLE your happiness and be joyful so please join us to learn more about Purim and for DOUBLE the fun on Saturday March 15th at 6pm at the WC3 for our Purim Carnival!!!
A Hamentashen is the traditional 3-sided pastry eaten on the Jewish holiday Purim. They are made by folding in the sides of a circular piece of dough with a filling in the center.
Purim is one of the funnest holidays on the Jewish calendar! It commemorates when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. Hamentashen are shaped in a triangle recalling Haman’s three-cornered hat.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- water or orange juice
- Jelly, Jam, Chocolate spread or puppy seeds filling (flavor of choice)
- Mix everything together until you have a nice dough.
- Roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface until you get a nice disk.
Refrigerate for a few hrs.
- Taking a drinking glass; use it to make a nice circle.
- Fill it up with poppy seed filling, Chocolate spread, Jam or jell of your choice, and close it in the shape of a triangle.
- Bake it in a preheated 350 F degree oven for about 30 minutes. Makes 50 to 60 cookies.
Golshim L'Chaim-Ski to Live is a Non-Profit Program that brings disabled Israeli Veteran IDF Soldiers to Aspen for a week of healing and physical challenge. Their week on the mountains is therapeutic, life changing and inspirational for our all volunteer community.
The 2014 Golshim L'Chaim- Ski to live dates have been confirmed! We welcome another awesome group of brave men and women on February 25 through March 4.
***There are a few changes to the schedule below:
- The Shabbat Dinner is at the Limelight on Feb 28
- Bowling is on March 1 at Slow Your Roll at The Snowmass Village Mall
Our Girls Group is back! Girls, 12-18 years old, are invited to join our new friend Courtney Schorr of AspenPLAY for an afternoon of learning the Art of Clowning!
Saturday, March 15th from 4:30-6:00 at the WC3, just before the Purim Carnival.
Part of the Purim tradition is MORE! Do more, dance more, laugh more, read more, love more and do more of what you love!
To instill this tradition, we are introducing the idea of clowning to help our girls exaggerate the more! Clowns embellish everything from their clothes and outward appearances to their emotions and what's inside.
On Purim, we are asked to rid our daily routines and do things a little differently. We are going to challenge your girls to remove the masks of their everyday person, and show us who they really are. To find their inner clown!
They will learn about expression, pantomime, face painting, and the array of clowns that exist from mimes, to hobos, to the traditional “bozo”. (More information to follow).
Also, on Purim, we are asked to develop a sense of giving, to get out of ourselves, and to laugh at ourselves. To let go of self-centeredness because not everything is about us. We make Purim baskets (misloach manot), which are given to both our friends and to those who are less fortunate than us.
Your girls will not only be reminded of the importance of giving and doing more for others, but how to be silly and not take themselves too seriously!
Starting at 4:30-6:00pm followed by the Purim Carnival where our girls will get to show off their new faces painting skills!!
We hope to see you there and what’s behind your mask as well!