Welcome From the Cantor
The month of Elul is upon us and there is much for us to prepare to be ready for our High Holy Days. In Jewish tradition the month of Elul is a time of reflection and repair. We are enjoined to actively search through our actions and motives for ways in which we have erred in our journey through life. This introspection can focus on the past year but can also encompass habits and characteristics in ourselves that have long caused us issues, particularly in interpersonal affairs.
This process is known as Teshuvah and begins by identifying our less desirable behaviors and considering their effects on those around us. We then
approach any people we may have injured through deceit, embarrassment, loose speech, carelessness, oversight, or conflict and seek their forgiveness for our actions. To complete the process of teshuva, we must make amends for our misdeeds with those we have hurt and develop a thoughtful plan to avoid those same behaviors in the future.
A helpful “how to” on Teshuvah can be found at How to Do Teshuva: 14 Steps (withPictures) – wikiHow (www.wikihow.com/To-Teshuva if clicking the link doesn’t work). Active and effective Teshuvah is intended to help us improve our selves to be worthy of God’s purpose for us as Jews, namely to act as a positive example to those around us. Judaism teaches us as well that God will not accept our repentance for sins that we have committed against God or God’s world until we have properly identified, apologized, and made amends for the sins we have committed between each other. We must properly ask forgiveness from others and repent in order to be worthy of asking the same from God.
Yeah… nobody ever said it was easy to be a Jew.
All of that being said, I hope to shine a spotlight on relationships this month of Elul during my sermons to help us define and better understand our own relationship with the Almighty. Other faiths may characterize exactly what their follower’s relationship with God is through a litany of dogmatic pretexts, but this is not the Judaic way. As humans, we have no other relationships in our lives that are defined by someone else. So why would God expect us to deal with Him/Her/It in some way foreign to our nature? Sure, there are societal norms. But there too we are left to our own decisions about how to nurture and develop those relationships to fit our level of comfort. So too in Judaism we are empowered to literally wrestle, just as Jacob did, with our relationship with God on a personal level.
Where and how does God fit into our lives?
What is our concept of God?
How can we relate as a mortal being with a He/She/It that defies definition and boundaries?
Yet in these questions are the essence of finding meaning and purpose in our lives.
My wife Maris and I are looking forward to the months ahead and discovering new worlds in each of your lives, as we hope you will find joy in ours. As we approach the High Holy Days may the month of Elul bring you a greater, more refined connection with each other and with our Creator.
Cantor Doug Ramsay
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