What Elul is teaching me this year

The drama of our no. 1 women’s tennis player, Shahar Pe’er, finally winning another tournament, after a long drought, gave many people a boost.

Shahar Pe'er 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shahar Pe'er 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Elul is the Jew’s testing device before the new year. For me, the lesson of Elul is made clear when I listen, in our neighborhood, to young and old practicing the sounding of the shofar. Each day the notes get stronger, and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur each ba’al keriah climbs the peak before all assembled.
This Elul there are peace rumblings. This Elul an Israeli chooses to go to the US, kill his son and himself.
This Elul my neighbor harvests his pomegranates for the first time after 12 years. This Elul the fastest runner in the world proves in Moscow that he still is.
The drama of our number one women’s tennis player, Shahar Pe’er, finally winning another tournament, after a long drought, gave many people a boost. After being in the top 10 players in the world, slipping to somewhere down in the upper 100s must have been crushing for Pe’er. However, she did not give up.
“After the recent finals in Baku, where I lost,” she explained, “I thought: ‘I’m not there, I cannot handle tennis anymore, I’m not strong enough for this.’” This wasn’t the first time such doubts got the better of her, she said, adding that “in the past six months there were at least five or six times when I said. ‘All right, I’m done with tennis. I had a great career and reached amazing places, but enough is enough. There are more important things in life.’” But Pe’er focused on what tennis meant to her, and that is why she won that Suzhou tournament in China in August.
“All in all, I have something which I really love. I love being on the court.”
Then she informed her listeners why she has succeeded in the past and hopefully in the future. Her coach told her in recent weeks – if you have lost your love for tennis, quit, but not because of what your ranking is.
So Pe’er, in recent weeks, made the court her personal crucible, in which she would remake herself, calling on inner strength. None of us can know how much Shahar practiced , but the results are evident.
We all have our chance on the court of life.
Maybe our serves have been ineffective, maybe our backhand has failed us, maybe a few lobs go over our head. But we know down deep that we, too, can draw upon our inner strength. We can make that major sale, we can help our children when it is not so easy, we can finally see our experiment work, we can tread forward in our lives, with new, innovative steps which we have feared to take.
Elul is the Jew’s testing ground before the new year. Though we intone them regularly, prayers can take on new meaning, if we focus on how the words truly speak to us. My suggestion is to take Elul a day at a time; try to raise yourself just a little every day. When all the small elevations are stitched together, you are ready for the challenges of the yamim noraim, the “days of awe,” and then, of course, for the new year 5774.