This past Sunday ushered in the month of Elul, the last Hebrew month before Rosh HaShanah. We find ourselves at the starting line, crouched to spring forward, our eyes on the finish line of 5776. Just beyond, not yet visible to the human eye, is the empty starting bloc--waiting patiently to thrust us into the New Year of 5777. We must cross the finish line before we can begin anew. As we continue on our month-long journey to a new beginning, we will pass, like spectators on the sideline, our actions, deeds and misdeeds of this past year. We shall see our aspirations never realized, our moments of joy, and our sad defeats. We will hear the words of comfort and encouragement we gave to those in need of our support. We will hear the deafening silence of the words never spoken—words seeking forgiveness---words of love—words of reconciliation. Divine forgiveness is only realized when we, first, make amends with those whom we have offended. The month of Elul provides the framework to begin the process of reconciliation…a journey that culminates on Yom Kippur when we seek forgiveness from God. Tradition teaches that the Hebrew letters of Elul—aleph, lamed, vav, lamed—are an acronym for a verse from Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs): Ani L’dodi, V’dodi Li-I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. In this verse the relationship described is one between God and Israel. During Elul this serves as a metaphor for the closeness we strive to achieve in all our sacred human relationships as well: spouse, parent, sibling, partner, friend, neighbor. Elul is about seeking and granting forgiveness in order to strengthen the treasured bonds in our lives. It is about speaking the words, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” Like a runner who is cheered on by the crowd or running partners, we too, are energized and strengthened by those loved ones whom we encounter each day. Elul helps remember who and what are most precious in our lives; it gives us the opportunity to mend moments of fracture. It provides the lens for us to see who will be standing next to us in the starting block of the New Year. Let each of us pace ourselves during the month ahead. May we have a strong heart to finish the Elul marathon –a heart filled with regret, forgiveness and love.