In addition to the physical planning ahead of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the month of Elul is also dedicated to “our soul preparation”, said Micaela Ezra, an illustrator and writer who provides a spiritual and soulful look at Judaism to her loyal social media following.
“Elul is this pause we have before we move into the intensity of Tishrei and the High Holy Days,” she said.
“It feels like it’s a time for us to reflect on where we felt we showed up and were present for the people in our lives, and where we felt that we missed the mark in different ways.”
It might sound like a difficult concept to explain to children, but Ezra has “seven messages” to share with them to make it easier to understand the spiritual meaning behind Rosh Hashanah.
One of a kind
“This is a time of really turning inward to connect with our essence, so that we can be of service in the world and that we can fulfil our soul’s purpose here,” Ezra said.
But how do we explain the concept of a soul to our children?
“What happens over the course of the year, no matter if they have a moment where they misbehave, or they forget to do something, no matter the chaos of their everyday lives, they have a soul that’s pure that they can always return to,” Ezra said.
“So the first message is that they are one of a kind with a soul that’s connected to Hashem.”
The second message is connected to the first.
“We can always begin again, even when we make mistakes,” Ezra said.
“This is how we learn, how we grow and how we improve ourselves. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur come to remind us that we can all say sorry, we can all forgive, and that we can all start again.”
Hashem was, is, always will be
The third message is around the idea of Hashem as the creator, who we all have different ways of connecting to.
“Sometimes we connect to Him as a king, sometimes we connect him as a loving parent who loves you just as your mum and dad love you,” Ezra said.
“He loves His creation and He wants us to be the best that we can be. When we’re being kind and creative, and when we’re being thoughtful and helpful, we are connecting to Hashem by being like him.”
How will you use your voice this year?
“The shofar is this piercing sound reminding us of what our mission is in life,” Ezra said.
“It wakes us up so that we remember why we’re here. We can also be like the shofar by using our voice for good, singing our own unique tune. It’s about remembering that we can all connect, that we can all love each other and be helpers to Hashem in this world.”
The fifth message is that through our daily words and actions, we have incredible power.
“This is all a partnership between us and Hashem,” Ezra said.
“We have to take care of the earth, we have to take care of the animals and we have to take care of one another. We also teach our children that they’re creating every time they’re speaking, and so when we do ‘mitzvot’ and when we act with kindness, we live up to our promise to Hashem to connect with Him.”
Head of the year
Rosh Hashanah is the first day and the “head” of the Jewish new year.
“We believe the way we start the year will affect all other 11 months, just like the head holds the brain which directs the rest of the body,” Ezra said.
“Some people have a fish head on Rosh Hashanah to represent that in our lives we always aim to be like the head and not the tail.
“We can ask our children for examples of when they really listened to their heart and took the lead, even when it seemed their friends weren’t doing the same thing. I believe that every child would have an example of this.
“Drawing their attention to this idea of leadership as responding to your heart’s calling and cultivating that, is really essential.”
The last message is the idea of “sweetness” and joy of the new year.
“It’s a celebration,” Ezra said.
“The fact that Hashem created mankind is a celebration and so we celebrate that through sweetness – dipping our apples in honey, eating honey cake and having these round elements to demonstrate that we’re beginning a new cycle again. It’s such a gift.”
While there is an element of fear around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because our lives are in Hashem’s hands, Ezra said there is also a warm, feminine energy around.
“That comes through all these metaphors of birth that we talk about around Rosh Hashanah,” she said.
“Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the day Adam and Eve were created, and the stories we read are about two women, Sarah and about Chana. Both of these women were infertile for many years and finally – after years of prayer, dedication, anguish and pain – Hashem blessed them each with a child.
“And so we are also awaiting the opening of gates of compassion on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We also pray that Hashem answers our deepest and most heartfelt prayers now.
“So there is this loving, feminine undertone to the holiday that we each find in our own way. That’s why this process of spiritual reflection leading up to the holiday is really essential.”
Micaela Ezra is a designer, writer and orator, who is passionate about Judaism, spirituality and creativity. Ezra has recently returned to Sydney after 15 years in New York City, during which time she built a brand that inspires a modern, Jewish life.
She is the owner and founder of AHYIN – an heirloom Judaica collection, designed by Ezra and made by artisans from Mexico and India.
For more information visit ahyinjudaica.com or on Instagram @micaela_ezra and @ahyin_judaica.