By Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov
One of my favorite quotes is “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li- I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s is mine.” This beautiful quote is from our Bible and appears in the book, “Song of Songs.” When I officiate at a wedding, I almost always have the couple recite this to one another. Personally, I love this quote so much that those words were inscribed on my chuppah, written on my Ketubbah and on a separate piece of art that hangs in our home.
Those lovely words are also said to complete the acronym of our current Hebrew month, Elul (in Hebrew – aleph, lamed, vav, lamed). This month of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah, is meant to be a time of reflection and preparation for the coming year. We are taught to spend this month reflecting on the past- thinking about what was wonderful and for what we must atone. We are encouraged to use this time to make amends and make new beginnings.
I truly love this connection between a month spent trying to make yourself better and thinking about your beloved. Clearly this quote speaks about another person- the one whom you truly and whole-heartedly love. Were you always honest and caring or could you learn to be more loving, more accepting, more patient and more compassionate?
However, what if we also look at this quote to be about self-love? What if we take this time of Elul, paired with this beautiful saying, and realize that your beloved is also yourself! What if we take this time of reflection to think about how we need to love ourselves in order to love others. I truly believe in the quote, that “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself.”
As we prepare for this New Year, let us take the necessary time to learn to love ourselves. Let us use this time of reflection and reflect on all days, to find the ways in which we can deepen our love for who each of us are.
May this New Year- 5773 be a time in which we can all do the work to love ourselves so that we may in turn be able to truly love others, as well!
Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year and Year filled with lots of love for others and ourselves!
Rabbi Losben-Ostrov is the rabbi at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY.