Elul is Not the End

This weekend sees the start of the month of Elul, the last month of the Jewish year. The whole month is set aside for readying ourselves to enter into the upcoming Days of Awe, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Our younger IJC members start back at school, college, university around this time. The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to work.


This weekend also marks the transition from summer to autumn in Belgium, and the weather gods seem to have decided to celebrate with some storms and a huge drop in temperature.  It’s the end of the summer, the end of the holidays, and the end of the Jewish year.

Peter and I caught the end of a late-night movie while we were on holiday and the kids were in bed. Directed by John Madden, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is set in a once fancy, now rather dilapidated hotel in India managed by a bunch of British retirees. The story turns around love, relationships, discovering and embracing our true selves, letting go of the past and the hardboiled expectations that often bind us to it.

It’s a good movie to start the month of Elul and wade into the waters of reflection on ourselves and the world around us. At the end of the movie, the amazing Maggie Smith concludes with the words “It’ll be alright in the end.” A bit of a cliché I suppose, something we say often enough without really thinking about it. But then she adds “… and if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.”

The events of the summer remind us that the world we live in is not alright and many of us still face challenges in our lives that leave us uneasy and without rest. But we all have opportunities to repair what isn’t right, to do whatever we can to restore balance in our societies and in our family and personal lives.  Elul offers us the dedicated time and space to make a start. Elul may be the last month of the Jewish year, but fortunately, “it’s not the end”.

Brian Doyle

IJC Rabbinical Intern