Dear readers,

Summers here in southern New Jersey can be very hot, very muggy and very humid. So when a friend called to invite me to swim in her pool, I eagerly accepted. She told me she swims every morning at 8:15 together with another friend, her swimming partner. They have been doing this for years; it’s their escape, a terrific form of exercise and a great way to invigorate their day.

The pool was large, gorgeous and refreshing. When I arrived, the two were already hard at work. My friend swims eighty laps every morning (did I mention the pool was large?) and her friend does the same.

Dipping toe by toe, I slowly stepped into the pool before jumping in. While my friend’s goal was eighty laps, I knew I’d be happy with eighteen. While my friend and her friend executed perfect front crawls, their strokes calculated and strong, I chose to do some relaxing backstrokes and breaststrokes. The important thing for me was just to keep on moving, which I knew was great exercise, even with my sloppy strokes. I was careful to stay in my “lane” and be considerate of their space as I gazed at the brilliant blue sky and the soaring trees, and I felt grateful just being there.

Swimming my own program, I thought of the new month we are entering.

Elul is an opportune time for introspection. It is a time to think about the year that passed and our goals for the coming year. Sometimes we can get so caught up with comparing ourselves to others that we miss the point. But introspection means looking inner, looking at ourselves and our potential.

Elul is the time when “G‑d is in the field”—right here in our neighborhood, at our jobs, in our homes. The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, explains that to come before the king in the royal palace requires the admission of a hierarchy of officers checking our credentials, but when the king comes out to the fields, anyone can approach him.

Elul is our chance to seek G‑d out in a more open and personal way, without protocol blocking the way. Irrespective of what we have or have not achieved in the last year, and irrespective of how we compare to the guy or girl next door, it’s our opportunity to focus on strengthening and developing our own, personal and intimate relationship with G‑d.

Because we’re all in the pool of life. Whether we succeed in doing eighty or eight laps is irrelevant. What is important is that we take the plunge, be considerate of others’ space, enjoy the stunning scenery and focus on moving forward!

Wishing you all a wonderful new month!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW