Teaching for Elul: Creative Return

Can you hear it? The shofar blast pierces the air. That ancient, wordless cry startles us from our slumber, awakening our hearts, shaking free our minds, resonating deep within our soul. Each morning during the Hebrew month of Elul, the sound of the shofar invites us to hear clearly, feel deeply, and respond lovingly as we find our way back to one another, back to ourselves, and back to the divine through the process of teshuva (return).

In reviewing our year, revisiting the times in which we missed the mark and asking for forgiveness, we at once find our way back to the core of who we are and remake ourselves anew. In this way, teshuva is a creative act. In the words of Machzor Lev Shalem, through teshuva, “We return to who we are meant to be, but have not yet become. We return to growth and possibility that has lain dormant within us and not yet flourished, much as a sculpture lies hidden within a brute block of stone."

The creative process of teshuva is one of discovery and exploration. Artist and author Michele Cassou offers that the greatest gift of creative process is that it “does not let you mimic life in a satisfactory way. It forces you to really explore the truly vibrant within you.” The places in which we’ve missed the mark are our greatest resource. We gather them into ourselves as raw material to fuel the journey. Cassou calls this the “kindling for our creative fire."

In this High Holy Day season, may we find within ourselves that sacred place of freedom and permission in which to release, discover and create. May we allow our expectations and fears to fuel our creative journey. And may we witness them transform into something new as the dazzling sculpture within us is revealed.