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Lisa Goldstein

Transformational practices are what the Institute is about, and there is no more transformational time of year than the season we have just entered - of Elul and of Tishrei - of preparation, reflection, and t'shuvah.

I once heard a story from Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, who told that in the old days, if you wanted to go talk to the king, you had to think about who could help you get invited to the palace.  You had to wear your best clothes and learn the court etiquette - how to enter the throne room, when to bow, what to say, where to look.  It was all very complicated and very serious.  But sometimes, the king just went for a walk in the fields.  And at those times, you could just start walking along next to the king and share whatever was on your heart.


Elul is the season when the King goes walking in the fields.


I love this imagery, the intimacy, the hope it conveys for coming close to the Divine.  I feel my heart leap up:  Yes!  I too want to go for a walk with the King!  (or the Queen - pick your metaphor of royalty.)  I want that immediate access, the instant connection.  So often I focus on learning the court ritual, or, as we say, "preparing the vessel" - committing to the form of the ritual, dragging my attention back over and over.  I know that the practice is a tool that can create the possibility for those moments of awareness.  Yet I yearn for those moments of grace.


I also love this story because the High Holy Days themselves are like the throne room, not like the open fields.  They are arguably the most formal, complicated and serious days of our whole year.  We (especially we clergy) could get seduced into thinking that the preparation for these Days of Awe is mostly involved with liturgy and choreography.  But this is precisely when God invites greater accessibility of a very different kind.


And so part of my preparation for the Holy Days includes imagining:

  • What would it be like if I could join God for that walk in the fields?
  • How would I say hello?
  • What would I share about my life?
  • What would I ask for?
  • What questions would I be asked?
  • How would I answer?
  • How would I take my leave?

Wishing you an inspiring, heart-opening beginning to these most holy of days!


Lisa Goldstein 

p.s. Read more blog posts on our website

Sheila Weinberg
Psalm 27 - a translation
Sheila Peltz Weinberg


Awareness is sunlight in the mind. No one can take that from me. Awareness is my life's stronghold. It absorbs all fear.


The hindrances and defilements are as close as my flesh and mind, but they dissolve in the light of being known.


Even though I feel assaulted by hostile forces, my heart remains confident, balanced and patient.


I seek only one thing, one thing alone: to connect to this moment. Nowhere else. Only this. Nothing less. My palace in time.


When difficulties arise, I have a hiding place in my own heart - a secret tent where I can go and feel safe, a rock to rest my head upon.


Greed, hatred and delusion don't stop coming, but when they are met with a spacious heart, they don't stick around. Leaving me so grateful, I want to sing out loud:


Listen world! The power of love sets me free.


When I turn to face my heart - then everyone and everything is revealed.


Let this truth not be hidden from me. If only I could remember always what seems so clear right now. Wisdom would guide my every moment.


Awareness and compassion would be a father and a mother to me.


But I can follow the guidance of those who have walked this path before.


Trying to stay alert to the obstacles along the way because delusion and hatred aren't disappearing so fast.


Still, I affirm my faith in the power of goodness.


May we take courage; may we be strong; may our hearts be so filled with love there is no room for anything else!


May we see the arising and passing of all conditioned things (anicca vata sankhara). 


May we open to the Unconditioned: Y*H*V*H


[Hebrew and English] 


Elul Resources

Psalm 27 - Sheila's translation with the Hebrew
Psalm 27 - Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's translation
Psalm 27 - Chant by Ketzirah
Broken Tablets and Whole Tablets - Jeff Goldwasser's Blog
Elul Text and Questions - Kehillah San Francisco 
#BlogElul - Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz 
This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared:

What are your favorite Elul resources?
What have we left out?  What have we missed?
Join us on Facebook and let us know how your practice is going.

Study together 

Jonathan Slater
Sample text 

Rabbi Yael LevySample text 

Yael LevyVayishlach 

This year, for the first time, we are offering two text study options [full description].


Sign up for text study with Rabbis Jonathan Slater, Yael Levy, or both!

This year's emails will begin Friday, Oct 5.


The cost is $240 to subscribe to study online with either teacher, or $450 for both.  


To register and for more details, please visit [Regonline]. 

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