September is a time of transition. So, too, is this Hebrew month of Elul. We watch children begin or return to school or take a next career or life step. No matter their age or stage of life, we hope that our children have the skills and confidence to comfortably face the content and the social interactions with peers and the adults around them and that they continue to grow, strengthened by the time spent with others.
Dr. Erica Rothblum, head of Temple Beth Am’s (LA) Pressman Academy speaks about the struggles inherant in transitions here. (She also offers a link to a great blog by Dr. Wendy Mogel.) She reminds us that as hard as it is to “let go” we must allow childrent to take risks and swim in this sea of life without us holding on, trustig that they are prepared; knowing that we have helped them to become so.
As adults, the month of Elul offers us a similar opportunity for transition. If we choose to truly engage, we can use this month to prepare for the High Holy Days ahead. We can reflect upon our successes and missteps, our joys and our “oys.” As we do so, we can also carefully consider what we want to cast off as we grow forward and more importantly, what wisdom we have gained through this reflection of our missteps that want to take with us so we are better prepared for upcoming struggles. We can plan to take new next steps.
In Parshat Ki Tavo G-d reminds the israelites that they, too, are in transition. When they enter The Promised Land they will also be entering into a different “level” of partnership with G-d. While in the wilderness G-d provided for their every need, teaching valuable lessons along the way, much like a parent cares for a young child. G-d forgave missteps and continued to coach, mentor, nag ,and occiassionally punish in an effort to prepare the Jewish people to take steps beyond their singular and tight knit community. Moses, their day to day leader, was about to leave them. G-d would be ever-present, yet just as a parent facing a transition, G-d would be taking a deep breath and stepping back a bit, allowing the Israelites to make their way with a new level of independence.
Throughout Ki Tavo the peope are reminded of all they should do and of what will happen if they don’t follow the rules. (While we hope parents do not offer such severe consequences, I am sure my children can still recall many such reminders being offered as they stepped out to new adventures.)
As we come to the end of the parsha we read the following: And YOU came to this place. And Sihon, king of Heshbon and Og, king of Bashan came at US for war and WE struck them. (Deut. 29-6, emphasis mine) In this one sentence, G-d reminds the people that even as they moved forward, G-d was and still will be with them; guiding, supporting, and helping when most needed.
In this month of transitions, may we find trust. Trust that even as our children take next steps in life, they carry our words and guidance with them. Trust that they know we are there to help when needed, even if that help is helping them find a solution instead of fixing their problem. At the same time, may we find trust in our faith. Faith that through reflection and hard work we can take different next steps. We can always continue to grow, knowing G-d will be there as our partner and ever-guiding coach.
Prior to her position with the Grinspoon Foundation, Iris served as a synagogue educator in Syracuse NY, the Central New York PJ Library Program Coordinator and as a national consultant for PJ Library.
Iris holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Special Education, a master’s degree in Special Education and Reading, and Advanced Certification in School Leadership and Administration. Her experience as a secular educator and educational leader in congregational and community settings spans over 20 years. She is also a lay leader in Jewish organizations on the local and national levels. Iris served as the President of CAJE – the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, which was the largest member organization for Jewish educators in the country.