Of the Book

A Change in the Air

“Though summer still lingered and the day was bright and sunny, there was a change in the air. One smelled already the Elul-scent; a teshuvah wind was blowing. Everyone grew more serious, more thoughtful… All awaited the call of the shofar, the first blast that would announce the opening of the gates of the month of mercy.”

So said Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, when describing the energy inherent in the last Hebrew month of the year, Elul (This year September 1 to 28).

Let’s look deeper at the symbolism of air to describe the spiritual reflection of the growth of this month as we prepare for the high holidays.

A young boy was sitting in class, when his teacher took out a few pictures depicting the weather. The first picture showed a sunny day. “What’s the weather in this picture?”

“Sunny!” everyone yelled.

But how did they know? They knew because they saw a sun and its rays.

Next came a picture depicting a rainy day. The children all guessed correctly again, pointing to the dark clouds and numerous raindrops.

Then came the third picture. “What’s the weather here?”

“It’s windy!”

But how could they possibly have known? There’s no wind to point to! It’s simply because they could see the effects of the wind: The leaves flying off the tree and the person and kite bending backward.

Love is the same way. It can’t be empirically seen and measured, weighed or heard. But its impact on all of us is clear. Radio waves are everywhere. Do we see them? Know, but bring a radio into your room, turn it on, and you’ll hear there existence. The waves just need a fitting vessel to express them properly.

The soul and its Divine source can’t be seen with our eyes or heard with our ears. But their effects and impact are apparent. Like radio waves, the soul just needs a body to become a proper means of expressing itself; to carry out its mission on earth.

If we look at the Hebrew words for wind and rain, we discover something fascinating. Wind in Hebrew is Ruach, which is also used for soul/spirit (Spirituality in Hebrew is Ruchaniyut). Rain is Geshem and physicality is Gashmiut (Rain, like all things physical, is seen).

We can’t see or touch G-d, but through noticing the Divine providence in our lives — the guided journeys we have taken – we can notice His impact. We sense the Divine when we see a Del Mar sunset or experience the birth of a child. We can’t see our souls, but when we feel a moment of deep inspiration, are moved by a song or have a desire for transcendence, greater meaning and purpose, that’s the effects of the wind of our souls.

In a world where the loudest, wildest and most negative grabs our attention, this month is said to be an auspicious time to attune our minds and hearts to the quiet truth of the spirit, the subtle beauty of this world and ourselves we often overlook.

Author James Joyce said: “Shut your eyes and see.” Let’s turn off the phone and Netflix for a moment and connect with a deeper side to ourselves and our source. We may then merit the clarity and connection we’re looking for, as Elijah the Prophet described: “…A great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind was an earthquake , but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire — a still, small voice.”

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