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Counting down, counting up

מצבת הרב אורי זוהר זצ"ל

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Wednesday evening, Jerusalem. A young guy on an electric bike almost crashed into me near the entrance to the central bus station. "Be careful!" I shouted. He spun around and, at first glance, I thought to myself he's not the best version of an Israeli; he's arrogant, aggressive, and a law breaker. But then, when I looked again, I saw someone else, an individual who was sensitive, vulnerable, even shy. "Excuse me," he said. "I'm not focused. I just returned from the grave of Rabbi Uri Zohar."

Nothing in his external appearance suggested that he had just come from the cemetery. He looked more like someone who had just come from Metzizim Beach in Tel Aviv. But then he pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture of the gravestone of Uri Zohar, who passed away four months ago, where these words were inscribed.:"He exalted and sanctified the name of God in this world." I gently asked the bike rider what he was doing there. "I need to change certain things about myself, so I went to the one who knew how to change. Besides," he added with a smile, "it's Elul now."

When I got home I sent someone a link to a Facebook post regarding another matter. It had to do with a project we were working on together and it was sent to her cell phone. In response, she wrote: "Since Rosh Chodesh Elul, I deleted Facebook from my cell phone. You'll have to send the link to my computer." And so I did.

Both of the above incidents explain the power of Elul. The year begins in Tishrei, but the month before is devoted to spiritual preparation, self-examination, and soul-searching. It's not just about Selichot or blasts from the shofar, but what happens internally. Most of us may be counting down the days (51) until the elections, but there are those among us who are quietly counting down the days (15) -- or, better said, "counting up" the days -- as we ascend upwards to the new year.


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