The Need for Refuge
To do the work of repair of our relationships and true renewal of our lives, we need to be willing to vulnerable. We need to acknowledge where we haven’t been our best selves in our relationships with others and with God. In order to show this vulnerability, we need to believe that we are loved and wanted in spite of our mistakes and failings.
The holy Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria of Tzefat, 16th century) taught that the name of the month of Elul is an acronym for אִנָּה לְיָדוֹ וְשַׂמְתִּי לְךָ -deliver into his hand, I shall establish for you (Exodus 21:13). This verse speaks of the “cities of refuge” established in Biblical times as places where a person who killed another unintentionally might find sanctuary from the wrath of his unintended victim’s family.
The Ari taught that the entire month of Elul is a a refuge in time that allows us to expose our vulnerability to ourselves, to own our feelings and mistakes, without fear of judgement or shame. Seeing this month of High Holy Day inner preparation as a refuge is the affirmation that God, or the deepest part of reality, is one of understanding and forgiveness, and that we can trust the process of self introspection and repair of our lives and ourselves.
(Rabbi K’vod Wieder)