Sisterhood Blog

Lesson from Elul: No One Should Dance Alone

By Allison Gaudet Yarrow

  • Print
  • Share Share

Summer is hard to take seriously with nobody in the office, and everybody running around half-dressed. No wonder High Holidays fall when school resumes and the air grows brisk — when life starts taking itself seriously again.

In the 29-day lead up to cracking open the book of life for the first time this year, we Jews are commanded to study, to reflect, to repair. This focused period, called yeraḥ kallah — which can translate to “bridal month,” the bride being the object of study, the Torah — has spurred a modern response in the vein of story and self-help.

istock

Enter the Jewels of Elul, in its seventh and possibly final year. Musician Craig Taubman, whose projects have ranged in subject from Jewish to Disney, created the website, which features a daily snippet of wisdom throughout the study month.

Famous people have contributed: President Obama, Lady Gaga, the Dalia Lama, and famous-ish people too. I can’t think of an unlikelier source for Jewish advice than Mary J. Blige, though her addiction work is commendable. This year’s subject: Enlightenment. May we be so lucky to experience even a drop of this.

“Instead of buying new shoes, a belt, a new suit, this is food for your soul,” said Taubman, who has prioritized collecting musings from thinkers diverse in gender, religion and race.

The women contributors seem more given to stories often about family, and the men seem more didactic or political, even preachy at times.

I guess that’s what you get from a Rahm Emanuel or a Rick Jacobs — people who approach the world with a rabbinic authority, and employ writers to whom they can outsource their subconscious thought processes.

Taubman agreed that male participants waxed more pragmatic, while the women were quicker to access emotional truths.

Except for Josh Kornbluth, the blessed man, for sharing something simple yet heartfelt. He writes of being shuffled between adversaries, his divorced parents, whose anger toward one another was tempered during a New York City blackout when the assurance of safety — its own kind of enlightenment — was craved.

The story that Taubman said brough tears to his ducts was actually from a few years back, and written by Yo Yenta! blogger, Jessica Leigh Lebos.

She wrote, “My mother-in-law’s mind is full of holes,” to describe her dementia, but those holes seem to close when there’s music.

Lebos’s mother-in-law is fond of snapping and jazz hands. Her children vow never to let her dance alone, risking public embarrassment to shield her from it. I picture the three of them doing the Charleston in the aisles of supermarkets. Or maybe that’s just my subconscious beaming in my own grandmother, who also has dementia, and as a Catholic doesn’t know from Elul, but is prone to dancing in moments that don’t call for it, or singing a football team’s fight song in church.

And I think about how her not-quite-thereness combined with my living far away has often caused me to write her off.

Reading Lebos’s Jewel makes me think that maybe I should just dance with my grandmother more, even from afar, even if she doesn’t know we’re dancing.

And here, perhaps, I’ve arrived at the point, which these Jewels of Elul are meant to evoke.

The intersection of simple, familial memories and longings, and the change of seasons leads me to dedicate myself to doing better in the New Year.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.