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Elul Thoughts from Rabbi Irit Shillor

[In the story of the exodus from slavery, which we read year after year] we [find] empathy with the other and as a result solidarity with the other. These feelings exist in people to different degrees, but they can become stronger depending on the experiences of an individual, a group or a people. It seems obvious that people have empathy mostly with their own group, however they define this group. The real problem is the relationship to the “other”, the one who does not belong to “our” group. People are afraid of the other and distance themselves from the other, especially if that other is not familiar to them.

I know that there are only few heroes, and I also know there are only very few wicked people. However, even the least wicked of us, if they are not heroes, tend to keep silent and not speak out against events that cause suffering and injustice. People are afraid to speak out, to act. But I always had the feeling that among the Jewish people this solidarity with the other, this motivation to help and support others is stronger than usual, stronger than average. And I always had the feeling that those among the Jews who felt this solidarity were able to influence others, and cause the public to join them in helping those in need.


Elul Thoughts

Elul is a month given to us to reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a month where we try to take account of our lives, so that we might make the most of this powerful time of renewal, regeneration, fresh starts and healing.

This year our daily Elul Thoughts are taken from ‘Terror, Trauma and Tragedy’, edited by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and Rabbi David Mitchell. Each is a short extract of a larger piece designed to help us find meaning, comfort or perhaps more questions in the aftermath of horrific events, which have seemed all too frequent this year. The horror of such atrocities can leave us in confusion, depression and fear. As we move into a new year we hope these pieces might variously offer some solace, be a tool of self-reflection, and encourage us to continue working for a better world.

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