Messages from Rabbi Russo

September 2, 2016 - 29 Av

Motzei Shabbat, the evening of September 2, begins the sacred month of Elul. The preparatory month of Elul prepares us spiritually for the upcoming High Holidays.  It is a time of reflection, teshuva, and a spiritual accounting of the soul known as Heshbon HaNefesh.  
Here are a few ways you can engage in Heshbon HaNefesh during the next month:

1.  Attend our Elul Spiritual Workshop, led by Judith Rose, on September 13 at 7 pm at CSI.  Allow your soul to be awakened and get ready for the days ahead.  
2. Sign up for Jewels of Elul.  You will receive a story or an inspiration daily to your inbox.  The emails help to carve out time to remember Elul each and every day.  You can sign up here:
3. Ask yourself key questions: What do I want to be a part of?  What am I willing to risk?  What do I want to give?  I encourage you to ponder these questions and email me with your answers, stories, and inspirations.  With your permission, I will find a way to share your words with the congregation as we all engage in this holy work.
I leave you with a story about recognizing spiritual moments that can easily pass us by, excerpted from Yom Kippur Readings edited by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins:

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.  When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.  Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.  But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.  Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door...A small woman in her 80s stood before me...By her side was a small nylon suitcase.  The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years...When we got into the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive me through downtown?" "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.  "Oh, I don't mind," she said.  I'm in no hurry.  I'm on my way to hospice."  I looked in the rear-view mirror.  Her eyes were glistening.  "I don't have any family left," she continued.  "The doctor says I don't have very long."  I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.  "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.  For the next two hours, we drove through the city.  She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.  We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.  She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.  Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building, or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.  As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired.  Let's go now."...The woman was already seated in a wheelchair [at the Hospice facility] "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.  "Nothing," I said.  "You have to make a living," she answered.  "There are other passengers," I responded.  Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.  She held onto me tightly.  "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said...On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. (As told to Rabbi Jory Lang)
 We do not know when experiences and people will inspire us.  When we slow down and take our time with spiritual attunement, we are more likely to recognize when one of these incredible experiences forever changes us.  In preparation for the days ahead, we open ourselves up to change by focusing on who we are and where we want to be in our spiritual journeys.     
 Good luck and Shabbat Shalom.