Friday, August 21, 2009

Rosh Chodesh Elul - Getting ready for a new beginning

Before I begin tonight's column, I feel an absolute need to share with you some of the events that occurred almost immediately upon publishing this column last Sunday evening. If you missed Sunday's insertion, "The Week that Was and the Week to Come", feel free to check it out, or in the event that you already have, you may wish to re-visit it after reading what I am about to relate to you.

First, I must set the record straight about a few comments made in that column:

First and foremost, comments relative to my personal vulnerability were spoke directly to my post-illness experiences of acting and feeling at times emotionally stronger than I am in real life. We are all vulnerable to a certain extent and my feelings of exemption from this vulnerability due to having recovered from death were not only unfounded, but the reality of my own vulnerability hit me like a Mac truck of late, as we approach the High Holidays and my second year without the physical presence of my father (more later).

To make this perfectly clear, I must immediately inform some of you that may be seeking my revelation of the identity of the "villain" gossip spreader, that you will be sadly disappointed. Not only will I now reveal this culprit, but I will spill all the beans at the same time. There is no, nor has there ever been any particular "villain". I was not speaking of any one individual, living or dead, that to my knowledge has ever caused me any personal pain by means of Lashon HaRa, rather, I was speaking to the multitude of people who on a daily basis feel the necessity to spread rumours, and bear false witness seemingly for sport. The existence of this 'group' became quite evident to me when my Monday morning browse through e-mail found me reading at least three e-mails (and later answering two or three phone calls), all asking me the same thing: Why had I accused them publicly in this column of committing the act of Lashon HaRa! Was someone feeling guilty?

Let's end that discussion here.

Last word about Sunday's edition: I sincerely apologize to any of you that received multiple mailings of "Normal is Overrated". I was trying an auto-e-mailer, and it obviously didn't work very well, when a mistake in one e-mail address' cause the system to send and send and send. Again, I am sorry to have overloaded you.

On to this evening's insertion.

You may remember this past April when I wrote that the Passover Season is really the "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (04/07/2009). Celebrating our holiday of independence from slavery in Egypt has always been my favorite holiday, but Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year has always been very special to me personally as well.

It was a time for my father and I to spend in Synagogue together.

On the southwest corner of West Pico Boulevard and Cochran Avenue in Los Angeles, more specifically, at 5258 West Pico, a building stood that for good reason will forever hold my heart at bay and the mere recollection that that old white (later, yellow) brick structure is gone will forever break that same heart.

I do not believe this writer's heart is broken by the absence of structure that once stood on that corner, rather, by the absence of what that building stood for.

In 1961, my father purchased The West Pico Hospital for Animals. Over the years, that animal hospital became a symbol of the changing community. It was a constant during changing and at times challenging times. It was a place where owners of dogs, cats and even a few birds knew that hard times would not stand in the way of their being treated with kindness, love, respect and incredible care. Not one time in his fifty-five years of Veterinary practice did he ever refuse treatment to a pet because the owners could not afford the treatment. Not once did he ever euthanize an animal due to financial restraints. He was just that kind of man. My father's picture was in our dictionary, right next to the word Tzadik. Righteous.

My favorite times were, believe it or not, toiling away in the kennel areas back at Pico and Cochran. The lunch runs to Corey Market across the street, or the days that we would take a nice long walk to Fairfax and visit The Bagel Restaurant and Deli.

I miss my father every day more, but never as much as I seem to miss him at this time of year. The High Holidays were the most special times that we spent in Shul. I think that it is more due to the fact that it was just us. My sisters rarely sat in Shul, and my mother would come by around 11 or so to see friends and to be seen. And she would leave. My dad and I would be in a zone, though. Although we each had our individual ways of davening (praying), we were in complete sync one with another, and it was a rare occasion when we would be reading faster or slower than each other. In Shul on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, it was almost as if we were one person. One neshama, one soul, in two bodies.

You are most likely about ready to look up from your screen and ask what on earth this all has to do with Rosh Chodesh Elul. I assure you that it has everything to do with Elul, and our everlasting wish to start over from the beginning; to take a Mulligan; to get a "Do-Over". To get a new lease on life; a new beginning.

As Jews, we are conditioned to believe that "On Rosh HaShana the Book of Life is written and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it is sealed". Who shall live and who shall die; who by fire and who by water; who shall become rich and who poor; who will be happy and who will be sad, and so forth. Rarely do many of us look at the fact that each and every day, we all have opportunity to atone. Each and every day, we have the opportunity to change our lives by virtue of just being a good person. By remembering that we are bound to not treat others in a manner which we would not like to be treated, and to live accordingly.

The first paragraph after the Shema teaches us that G-d asks us to love him with all our hearts, all our souls and all of our might. That we teach this diligently to our children, as our parents taught us.

The month of Elul is the absolute perfect month to live by. It is a time to reflect and to atone. To respect and ask forgiveness of those whom we may have hurt in the past year. Elul, in essence, is an extra thirty days to "settle up" with friends and foes alike. To both ask for and to grant forgiveness. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. We also have the ability to forgive. We should assert and utilize this more often.

The traditions of becoming more spiritual with each passing day appeals to me. How about you? What if we could... What if we could make every month like Elul? If we did, then maybe we as a people, we, as a world might have the ability to get past things like greed and jealousy; selfishness and Lashon HaRa? Maybe just then, could our world be complete.

Until that day, however, we must remember to continue to build and repair our world. This wonderfully beautiful world that G-d has so graciously given us.

During the month, let's do our best to discuss the virtues that are afforded us in Elul. A friend of mine posted just yesterday that she wished we had 12 months of Elul. To this, I say, Amen.


High Holiday Services will be held at The Clarion Hotel, Scottsdale on September 18, 19, 20 (Rosh HaShana), and September 27 evening and September 28 for Yom Kippur. The Clarion is located at the corner of Chaparral and Scottsdale Road. Please check your e-mail after Shabbat, or contact me at for complete details and reservations.

Stephanie Silverman Houser greatly appreciates your musical contributions, see her post: High School Grads Come Together 20 years later to Make a Holocaust Film at We all need to get involved with this project. It is truly one of the greatest Tikkun Olam projects ever.

Social Networking is fast becoming the most active source of marketing anywhere. Many networking groups exist right here in the Valley of the Sun, like Austin's Who's Who, and Raven Events, among others. The best place I have found to find these groups is Gelie's Head on over to and get ready to meet some incredible people.

---Final Words---

One Thousand Days plus One Week is the length of time that our brother Gilad Shalit has been kept captive by Terrorists in Gaza. Let us please try to keep him in our thoughts and in our prayers this Shabbat.

When I was in Jerusalem in February and March, I was handed this prayer for Gilad.

May it be your will, oh L-rd, our G-d and G-d of our Forefathers, that You shall take pity, forgive and have mercy upon Your servant, Gilad, son of Aviva and Noam Shalit And You shall save him in both physical salvation and compassion, together with all the hostages and prisoners of
Israel, Your People. Amen.

May your Shabbat be restful and relaxing. May your weekend be filled with happiness and in the company of family and loved ones.

From the Midbar that we call Arizona, I wish you Shabbat Shalom, and send Ahava u'Vrachot, Love and blessings.

--R' Alan Abrams

1 comment:

  1. very touching words, Alan. I was asked to share
    at a church called New Beginnings here in Tx.
    the other nite, you may find it in video on demand it might be under 8-19
    I'll try to put a title