Welcome to Elul

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, August 18, 2023 / 1 Elul 5783

Summary: As the month of Elul begins, the focus of these Oasis Songs will be on High Holiday themes, barring some earth-shaking event. This year, I am grateful to partner with Debbie Plawner, who has been creating a deck of cards inspired by, in her words, “the infinite light of Torah.” Her Elul cards support the spiritual preparation we undertake in the month leading up to our Yamim Noraim, our Days of Awe. To learn more, please reach out to Debbie at dplawner@gmail.com.

The graphics from her cards will be my Oasis Elul headers, below which I share reflections based on the card of the week.

Reading Time: Two and a half minutes


There’s a powerful line of connection between loneliness and solitude, with one major difference. Solitude tends to be an intentional act by which we allow ourselves space to befriend ourselves, while loneliness is the emotional state that arises when our solitude feels uncomfortable. Yet we need both to teach us.

Before our trip to Hawaii, we had decided as a family that we would allow time for activities in common, as well as some individual stretches of solitude. There’s an amazingly stark, black lava field in southwest Maui that we hiked the day after the fire. We started together, but then we each found a personal pace that allowed some private time. To the west, the blue ocean gave way to huge sprays of white water as the waves pounded the rocky shore. To the east was Haleakalā, which is the tallest peak on Maui. Shayah and I had intended to hike it, our final father-son adventure before he heads off to college, but the park was closed because of the conflagration. Instead, I found myself experiencing alternating moments of solitude and loneliness as waves of loss powerful as the ocean swept over and through me. My first born was leaving home, and an 18 year phase of life was ending. Regret and contentment mixed.

Who are you when the major work of parenting is over, or after you retire from a career that has given your life focus, or in the aftermath of divorce, or after a fire has taken your home and claimed the lives of those you loved? Most of us can’t move through those transitions without experiencing moments of loneliness. Yet after that wave subsides, we are left with the quiet of solitude that can guide us in our next steps.

As Elul begins and the holidays draw close, where will you let your solitude take you?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav D

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.