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Two important dates fall on the same day today: the 1st of September and the 1st of Elul. Both of them, and I'm not exaggerating, are foundations of our Peoples' existence. On September 1st, over two million Israeli children return to school. Their parents will vote for all kinds of political parties, but will lead them to the classroom on that first day, with the same excitement and hope. Naomi Shemer (a famous Israeli song writer) once wrote the following lyrics for singer Yehoram Gaon: "From my window I see / a street like a swelling river / and people go to their day's work / and tinokot shel bet raban (young children who learn Torah) / with the school bag on their backs." The famous chorus is: "You will not prevail over me. People do not prevail over me so quickly". Yehoram Gaon once explained that this is the basis of our society's victory: a swelling river of tinokot shel bet raban, with school bags on their backs. This morning we will also see such a river.
With the 1st of Elul begins the days of repentance, mercy and asking for forgiveness - the 40 days until Yom Kippur. In the Yeshiva world this is the beginning of "Zman Elul", an intensive period of learning and self-improvement, and in all of the Jewish world a different pulse will be felt. The annual chance to change and to start a new page begins. This year, Elul sets a special challenge for us in Israel: to not only say where the politicians are wrong, to not attack different sectors in society and political parties, but to turn the criticism inward, to check how we ourselves can improve. In the Vidui (confession) prayer of Yom Kippur - that WILL come after all of this turmoil - we will indeed say "we were wrong, we acted treacherously", rather than "Ganz was wrong, Bibi made a mistake".
May we have good beginnings.


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