When our Temple president asked me to lead the services last Shabbat I was so thrilled to say, "Sure!" It was Rosh Chodesh Elul! I just love having a month-long assignment from Hashem to become introspective for my own spiritual growth each year.
It's not a selfish distraction or an obsessive compulsion to read real books and online materials, and to listen to audio and watch video teachings many, many hours a week. It's my assignment this month!
And what's the purpose of Elul (as I understand it now, in this final month of 5775?) The purpose of Elul is not abject repentance only. Yes, repentance is part of it. But first comes self-assessment, from which we naturally discover the need to repent. And then what?
What comes next is the renewing and refreshing of ourselves, our hopes and dreams and goals and desires. These are all food for the Rosh Hashanah, the New Year coming up and the end of the month of Elul.
Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz posted the following on his site, ParadisePrinciple.com, "… look at all the portions in the Torah we read during Elul. We see that Moses is doing a review in all of them.
Moses is reviewing all the episodes the Jews experienced in their stay in the desert. And his review corresponds to what we are meant to be doing. We are meant to be reviewing our year and all the highlights of our year, sort of an inventory of what we did right and wrong, and what we need and want to do."
It's a recap and a planning period, that's my Elul. I'm so glad to have this month to grow before 5776 arrives this September!