You’ve Got Your High Holiday Tickets, but Before You
Consider What to Wear, Check Your Vision.
By Hebrew Seminary President Rabbi Dr. Douglas Goldhamer
The month of Elul, the last month before the Jewish New Year is the most important theological month of the Jewish year. In the month of Elul, God is closer to us than at any other time and our prayers are more powerful than at any other time, including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
If we focus our thinking on God during the month of Elul, we will be so much in God’s thoughts that during the High Holiday services, when we pray in temple, we will “hear” God answer. The word “hear” can be either hearing with your ears or feeling intensely a separate being inside of you speaking to you. I pray so intensely during Elul that when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur comes around, I actually hear by feeling a separate being answer me who lives within me. It is an amazing, frightening and yet inspiring moment.
We know it is our tradition to say the Modeh Ani prayer every day upon wakening, but if you say the Modeh Ani prayer during Elul you will feel the intensity of the prayer greatly. You will feel the power of God flowing through you like in no other month.
Modeh (feminine: Modah) ani l’fanecha melech chai v’kayam shehechezarta bi nishmati bechemlah rabah emunatecha.
I thank you with my very being, living, enduring King, for restoring my Divine Soul to me in compassion. You are faithful beyond measure.
The Modeh Ani prayer strongly opens the gates of our soul so that when we recite the Modeh Ani prayer during the month of Elul, God not only returns our soul to us every morning when we wake up, but our soul becomes so pure. This is because, with a minyan of ten, the channels or gates open on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and we can hear God. There are two channels to the soul that allow us to hear God, if these channels are open. The first channel is Nefesh, that part of the soul that resides in our blood stream. When that channel becomes open, it allows us to hear God from the bottom up. The other channel that opens during Elul, when we recite the Modeh Ani, is that part of our soul called Neshama. The Neshama resides in Keter, in the crown of our head. When the channel Neshama opens, we hear God from the top down. So on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashannah both channels open when we say the Modeh Ani during Elul and our godly experience is enormously intensified. The Modeh Ani is the single most mystical prayer that is said in the month of Elul.
Here is the optimal way of saying the Modeh Ani meditation during month of Elul: 1) Say the Modeh Ani prayer. 2) While you are saying the prayer, there should be a concomitant internal dynamic that we are thanking God for the channel of the Neshama that opens up and allows the presence of God to come down to us from Ayn Sof (the One without End). 3) Also imagine that there is a channel within us, Nefesh within our bloodstream that opens up and allows God to enter into us from the bloodstream up through our whole body. 4) Imagine a lighted candle before you. Visualize it. See it. 5) With your eyes closed, imagine the candle coming closer and closer to you as you say “The light of the Lord is my soul.” (Proverbs 20:27). 6) Visualize the candle entering you, see yourself filled with the light of God augmented by God’s extra light coming down into you through Neshama and God’s additional light coming up to you through Nefesh. Like a booster shot, God’s extra light adds punch and power to light you already have now with the two channels open. Up and down, these two sparks ignite the light that already is in you. Know that this Elul morning experience will have tremendous mystical ramifications on hearing God during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Watch for Part II Proposing a Prayer Vision!