There is something special in the optimism of a new month. We renew ourselves, just like the moon, since we have the chance to start all over again. Last Shabbat morning in synagogues throughout the world, a blessing was recited in honor of the new month of Elul which arrives on Thursday and Friday.
The month of Elul is especially significant since it is the last month of the old year (5783) as we prepare for the new one (5784). Elul presents us with the opportunity to ask: What is it that we wish to improve, to change, to upgrade? In which areas of life has our potential yet to be fulfilled? Here is a portion of the new month’s blessing:
“May the Holy One, blessed by He, renew it (the new month) for us and for the entire nation of Israel, wherever they may be, for goodness and for blessing, for gladness and for joy, for deliverance and for consolation, for livelihood and for prosperity, for good news, for complete healing, for imminent redemption, and let us say: Amen.”
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No one should be invisible.
Have you ever thought about the hobby of the guy who cleans your street? Or his dreams? The city of Akko – as reported by journalist Yair Kraus – has put up new signs which make its sanitation workers into stars. And so we discover Sammy’s love for his grandchildren and for swimming, and learn that Victor goes fishing at least once a week.
“Behind every clean neighborhood, there is a story” is the motto of this delightful campaign.
This week’s Torah portion lodges a protest against the idea of “invisible” people. A situation is described in which the body of a murder victim is discovered without any clue as to the circumstances of his death. In such a case, the leaders of the nearest town break the neck of a calf (the egla arufa ritual) where the corpse was found. Why? The animal’s sacrifice is meant to atone for the negligence of the townspeople in not providing the victim with hospitality, in not being concerned for his welfare. This is public negligence of the worst kind.
Our commentators explain that such a tragic end is preventable. They cry out to us to pay closer attention to those around us, to find out who they really are and the story behind them. So what’s the name of your street cleaner?
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.