Ani le-dodi ve-dodi li | אני לדודי ודודי לי
I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved Is Mine
Labor Day in North America marks the informal end of the summer season. Growing up, for me that meant the start of a new school year and with the exception of those facing COVID-related delays, this week finds nearly all schools back in session.
It’s not the start any of us expected, with so many children learning remotely or taking part in hybrid learning programs that have them spending only a part of each week physically inside a classroom, but it’s a start, nonetheless.
At nearly every Jewish Community Center, many of which restarted programming for kids several months ago, early childhood education and newly expanded all-day, learning-support programs for school-age kids are happening in earnest—and in-person. These critical programs run within new health and safety guidelines dedicated to safeguarding children, teachers, and families and to offering them the opportunity to resume their daily lives with as little disruption as possible.
Though the new school year is underway, the Jewish New Year 5781 remains in the offing. The Hebrew month of Elul precedes the New Year and in Jewish tradition, it is a period of reflection and introspection and a time to take stock of both the year gone by and our aspirations, our hopes, and our dreams for the year ahead.
Rabbi Doctor Reuven Hammer, z”l, wrote:
that Jewish tradition points to the name of the month as symbolically appropriate — the Hebrew letters of Elul | אֱלוּל form an acronym for the words in the verse Ani le dodi ve dodi li | אני לדודי ודודי לי–“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). Believing that the “beloved” refers to God, the sages take this verse to describe the particularly loving and close relationship between God and the Jewish people. Elul, then, is our time to establish this closeness so that we can approach the Yamim Noraim | ימים נוראים, or Days of Awe, in trusting acceptance of God’s judgment. We approach the trial not out of fear, but out of love.
Elul is a time for humility in the face of so much that is beyond our control as we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the gateway to a new year; a new year replete with both opportunities and unknowns. In anticipation of the new school year, we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to fulfill our commitments to our families and our communities. We’ve created guidelines and protocols that strengthen our ability to do so safely and responsibly—guidelines and protocols born of our experiences thus far with COVID-19. With great humility, we acknowledge both the limits of what we know and what we can meaningfully control. Only the passage of time will reveal what lies before us
And so, as the days of Elul in this period of reflection and introspection come down to a precious few, we will face the future not in fear, but with love—together.
Ani le dodi ve dodi li | אני לדודי ודודי לי
President and CEO
JCC Association of North America