Elul 1: Esther Netter


When is the right moment to sit and contemplate the difficult times we encounter? Why don’t I just get in touch with those things that are painful to think about, very real, hard to stay focused on?   How do I set aside time for inner reflection, slowing down enough to notice those thoughts and feelings that cause discomfort and even agitation.

Elul is a time for thinking about the “whens” the “whys” and the “hows.” It is the new year that affords us this opportunity, even demands it of us. To move forward, to heal, to forgive, to grow so that we are the most and the best we can be for the new year.

A friend, gently encouraging me to ask the “whens, whys and hows”, shared a favorite quote from lyricist Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

When do we focus on the cracks? How do we heal those cracks in our lives and hearts? Why do we leave those cracks unattended only to grow and deepen? We all have cracks in our live. Take the time to recognize them and remember, it is through the cracks that the light shines through. May this month bring each of us more light and illumination.

Esther Netter is the executive director of the Zimmer Children’s Museum in Los Angeles.

HINDSIGHT – The Art of Looking Back


In the spring of 2005, Eva Robbins commissioned me to write a setting for Psalm 27. At the time, I had no idea why she chose this text nor where her ask might lead me. Eva explained that the text was recited each of the 29 days of Elul – to prepare for the high holy days.

Intrigued, I wrote this song (download here) and thought it might be interesting to ask 29 friends to write short introspections on how the prepare for the holy days. Jewels of Elul was born.  I wrote the following as the introduction to the first volume of Jewels of Elul, released on Monday September 5th 2005.

Tradition suggests that we use this month to prepare for the high holy days. Easier said than done. Well, this year we have an idea that just might work! In this very spot, on each of the 29 days of Elul, 5765, we will post a “Jewel” of an idea from some wonderful national community leaders, teachers, artists and thinkers. Looking to lead a more fulfilling life? We just may have a few great ideas!

So began a tradition that spanned 10 years, featuring 290 Jewels for the month of Elul, concluding in 2014.   Every year since, our office has received hundreds of request for more Jewels.   Not one to disappoint, we selected 29 Jewels that we thought might resonate in 2017.

Beginning this Monday, we invite you to join us for HINDSIGHT – The Art of Looking Back. The contributions follow no set rules themes or patterns. What they do offer is a reflection of the deep diversity of our community and the hope that each of us has the gift to offer insight into life’s journey.

We begin the month of Elul with the very first Jewel of Elul first published on Monday September 5th, 2005 by one of my oldest friends – Esther Netter.

We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane, and look forward to hearing back from you.

To a sweet new year.




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