Yom Rivii, 1 Shevat 5778
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elul

As many of you know, I grew up in the Philadelphia area and so my NBA team is the Sixers. Now, besides having Jewish ownership (Josh Harris), the Sixers used to have a Jewish general manager named Sam Hinkie. Sam Hinkie brought the art of “tanking” to a new level. He had a clear philosophy that in order to create a championship team, one first had to suffer through several years of losing in order to accumulate the “assets” (like high draft choices) that you could eventually utilize to build a championship team. In Philly, this became known as “The Process”, since Hinkie was famous for saying “Trust the Process”.

I am not certain that Sam Hinkie understood the Jewish roots of his Process. As explained by Daniel Erlbaum in an article in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, Hinkie’s idea reflects the Chasidic notion of “yeridah tzorech aliyah.” This translates into “descent for the purpose of ascent.” It is a Chasidic idea based on the notion that there is no ascent (aliyah) without a prior descent (yeridah), and the lower the descent, the higher the potential ascent.

This is what the month of Elul, the month before the High Holy Days, is all about. During the month of Elul, we are supposed to engage in introspection and evaluation of our lives; to truly descend into the recesses of our lives. The purpose of that descent is to make us available to reach new heights of living at the High Holy Days. Observance at the High Holy Days was never intended to be an event, it was intended to be the culmination of a process of teshuvah during the month of Elul.

Beginning 1 Elul 5777, your temple’s clergy and professional staff (and some guests) will be providing a daily commentary based on a verse from the most well-known piece of High Holy Day liturgy, the Avinu Malkeinu. Each day a new commentary will be posted on the temple website to provide inspiration as each of us prepares for the High Holy Days. Through the process of honest descent and introspection, may each of us acquire the assets of knowledge and wisdom we need to ascend to becoming the champion of our own lives. Trust the Process.

L’shalom,
Rabbi Alan Freedman