Edmonton Jewish News, September 29, 2016
(EJNews) – What an incredible new arena! Rogers Place has positioned Edmonton once again as a world-class city, the envy of our friends across the continent. We are all truly blessed to be living in this amazing place! If you haven’t checked it out yet, you will be blown away!
One of the highlights of the grand opening was the appearance of our Edmonton hero Wayne Gretzky. The Great One was duly impressed and could not stop gushing, but his most memorable thoughts came with his announcement, “What makes an arena really special is when you start winning, and you win championships!”
What made these words so special and poignant?
From the beginning of the month of Elul through Shemini Atzeret we recite chapter 27 of Tehillim (Psalms) twice daily. Our Sages explain the reason for this custom: The first verse states, “Hashem is my light and my salvation,” and a later verse states, “for He will hide me in His sukkah.” Since we have these allusions to Rosh Hashanah (when light came into the world), Yom Kippur (when G-d forgives us and we are granted salvation), and Sukkot, we recite the Psalm during this period of the year.
But that doesn’t explain why we begin a month before Rosh Hashanah at the beginning of Elul! Why start so early? The Baal Haturim, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher (1269-1340), teaches that the key lies in the penultimate verse “Lulé heemanti liros betuv Hashem” – “Had I not believed I would see the goodness of Hashem [my enemies would have destroyed me].” Explains Rabbi Yaakov: The word lulé consists of the same letters as Elul. Therefore we recite this chapter throughout the month of Elul.
But what is the essential relationship between lulé and Elul? Lulé means ‘had I not’ and in many ways that’s the attitude we have throughout the month of Elul. It’s the time of year when we take stock of our behaviour over the past twelve months. If only I had done that! If only I had not acted that way! If only that bad stuff hadn’t happened in my life! That’s Elul mentality.
But then we enter Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, and we are able to put the past behind us. The light of Rosh Hashanah fills the world. The salvation of Yom Kippur permeates our lives. The Almighty shelters us under the canopy of the wings of His Shechina (Divine presence). It’s time to stop fretting about what we should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done. It’s time to look to the year ahead and resolve that this year will be awesome, no matter what happened in the past!
Sadly, too many people lead their lives weighed down by shackles of the past. Maybe it was a relationship breakdown that devastated your life. Maybe you were fired from a fabulous job. Maybe your schooling experience wasn’t that great. You can’t let life’s major setbacks ruin you forever. If you’re still living with the angst of the past, is that called living?
Believe it or not, I’ve met people in their sixties who still complain about the way their parents brought them up! They simply can’t let go and get on with their lives. Even an Elul mentality is only meant to last a month. Not a lifetime! This Rosh Hashanah, leave the past behind and take control of your destiny and responsibility for your future!
That’s the blessing of a new arena. The past is behind us. We’re no longer bogged down by past inadequacies and shortcomings. We simply look ahead to a bright future. A future filled with victories and championships!
May the year ahead bring you victories in every facet of your life – health, nachas, and material prosperity! Shana tova umetukah!
Rabbi Daniel Friedman is the spiritual leader at Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton, Alberta.