In Jewish communities around the world, the entire month of Elul, the last Hebrew month of the year, is considered the month of Teshuva - repentance. We recite Slichot, prayers for forgiveness and sound the Shofar in the morning service. This of course is done as a spiritual cleansing in preparation for the High Holy Days. Although traditionally Ashkenazic communities recite Slichot for the last 10 days before Rosh Hashana, many follow the tradition of non Ashkenazic communities and recite Slichot for the entire month of Elul.
During Elul we all do a "Cheshbon Nefesh", an evaluation of our soul based on our deeds during the passing year. This is a period in Jewish life that is meant to awaken us to our spiritual existence. The first day of this month of spiritual evaluation is so important that it is considered equally important as participating in Slichot services and listening to the Shofar for the entire month.
It is amazing that the solar eclipse happened exactly a month to the day before Rosh Hashanah. Coincidence?
There is an interesting story that happened in the western US in the month of May 1833. A day before the sun eclipse of May 15th that year a few families who were traveling west in search of land to settle were captured by the Sioux Indians. It just so happened that one of the captured men was a novice astrologer and knew about the eclipse that would happening the next day. (An astrologer by the name Dr. Bessel had come up with the basic though somewhat primitive math in 1820 to be able to accurately predict sun eclipses.)
The novice astrologer told his captors that he had power over the sun and the moon and as a warning to them he would hide the sun for a few minutes. If they wouldn’t let their captives go free he would hide the sun forever. When the eclipse happened the next day the Indians were scared enough to heed the threats and release their captives.
Seeing the sun eclipse as a warning or as a sign for some upcoming significant event is not new to us. It seems that as long as thousands of years ago the Sumerians, Persians and Greeks were very much aware of sun eclipses and saw them as omens. Many throughout the centuries believed the same.
This rare sun eclipse fell on the day that many of us were getting ready to recite forgiveness prayers as part of our preparation for the High Holy Days. The official start of Rosh Chodesh Elul (new moon month of Elul) was sundown Aug. 21st just a few hours after the eclipse.
Maybe the "Jewish timing" of the eclipse is a special sign from heaven signaling a very unique opportunity. It is therefore incumbent upon us, who were designated to be a Light unto the Nations some 3,300 years ago to continue to transmute all negativity from the world through our prayers for peace for our country, for Israel, for the world.
Especially with what we have been facing, this High Holiday season will give us the opportunity to come together with our collective spiritual power and deliver a powerful "Message" to the world.
Despite the turmoil everywhere we will stand strong in the face of all adversities. With the Power of Love and Peace we will "eclipse" all evil.
As we were taught by our mothers and fathers we shall remain a Beacon of Hope for a better world for oppressed nations, for the removal of brotherly squabbling in our own beloved country and the elimination of wars and terror around the world.
Who will be that Beacon if not us?