ELUL THOUGHT #2: THE ASPEN LESSON

ELUL THOUGHT #2: THE ASPEN LESSON

elul

From Rabbi Steven Moskowitz: “I have always found the yellow leaves and white bark of the aspen to be the most beautiful of trees. Recently I discovered that each stand of trees is not a collection of individual trees but instead limbs of the same organism. In fact the world’s largest living organism is a stand of quaking aspens in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest. The stand covers over 100 acres and consists of some 47,000 trees. Scientists have determined that these trees are in fact one organism, identical to each other genetically and connected by a single root system. The lesson is clear. They appear to be individuals but are in fact a unified community.
 
[We are in the midst of the month of Elul.] Its intent is to focus our efforts on changing, on correcting our failings and mending our relationships…We are supposed to use these days to draw near to God. [We do so] by drawing near to family and friends. We are meant to use these days to seek out those we have wronged, to offer apologies, to grant forgiveness and at least try to better ourselves. 
 
Too often we think that such efforts are solitary. We look within, examine our deeds and quietly vow what we will change. The tradition views repentance as instead communal…We say: “Do not be deaf to our pleas…we have gone astray; we have sinned, we have transgressed.”  Our prayers on these days are in the plural.  The communal “we” gives us strength to examine our character and correct our wrongs. We are lifted by the community. We are made better by standing together.”