The month of Elul is days away and summer is nearing its end. Is there a way to connect sun, sand and sea with a month that marks the time for “Kheshbon Nefesh”?
Elul is all about conducting a spiritual inventory of all that went right and wrong over the past year. That's pretty heavy stuff to lay on kids yet it could connect with the seashore.
"Impossible!” you say.
Not at all. If you want to stay on home turf, I bet that when you go to the seashore, here and there you see men and women practicing yoga. Here and there you'll hear them chant “OM”, drawing the sound out as long as possible. It's all about connecting to the universe, about taking stock of all that is around.
The way to connect Elul with sun, sand and sea? A custom practiced by the Jews of Rome will do the trick. Vacationing at the Italian seaside resort of S. Marinella, Roman Jews mark the month of Elul by gathering together on the last morning of their vacation to hear the blowing of the shofar, eat a meal of thanks (and we know how yummy Italian food can be), and then distribute charity to the needy.
So here’s what I’m thinking: how about marking the beginning of your school year with a virtual visit to the seashore. Here's a YouTube video of the sea and its waves. How long you want to lap it up is up to you, but what you do want to do at some point is blow a shofar. Tell your children and/or students about the Jews of Rome – how old the community is, how it can trace its origins back to the time of the First Temple, and how they follow age-old traditions. Then ask them what Rosh Hashana resolutions they would like to make. Transform the resolution into a year-long project that includes a chart and an individual report given every six months. Don’t be shy about tooting your own shofar. Share your children's and/or students’ ideas with fellow teachers and turn a Jewish-Roman holiday tradition into an annual custom.
BTW: for a tasty Italian touch, add pizza to the project.