Alcoholism and the month of Elul

As you would imagine, quite the opposite. The Jewish New Year opens the season known as the "Days of Awe". This is a time of judgment and introspection, of repentance from sin. That's hardly a goal to be accomplished through all night partying. Judaism is a religion of life in the here and now, with the goal of the future. It never preaches escapism, with the sole exception being Purim, a subject for another post later in the year.

In fact, religious Jews consume more alcohol than the average citizen, yet have the lowest incidence of alcoholism. This is because of the circumstances of that drinking. It is almost entirely ritual based, from the Friday night kiddush, to the Saturday morning Kiddush, to the Havdala on Saturday night, to the various occasions of life that call for a "lechaim". In other words, almost all of the drinking is a celebration of life and faith, rather than an escape from it.

And so it is that we enter the month of preparation for Rosh Hashana with the words of love from King Solomon. Solomon, as we know, was the author of Ecclesiastes, a book probing the meaning of life. In it, he tells how he "tried everything out" to see where true human happiness and fulfillment lie. He tried partying, laughter therapy, materialism, you name it. His conclusion? All these are escapism, and while they may make for a pleasant diversion, they fail the ultimate test of true happiness.

That, says King Solomon, lies in "fear (of) the Lord and fulfill(ment of) His commandments". Beats partying by a country mile. That is the spirit we must cultivate as we enter this most potential-filled time of the year. It is a time of love from God to man and man to God.

What's love got to do (got to do) with it?

Easy. Love is identity. Live requires two beings to exist and know who they are. A love relationship requires an "I" and a "Thou". A conflicted person is limited in their ability to love. Repentance and re-dedication to our spiritual identity make love possible and strengthen it. Thus, love of God, repentance and introspection all grow together in this month of "I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me."

May we all be blessed with a month of love leading to a year of life, peace and fulfillment.