Autumnal Poems for the Month of Elul

As the days move closer to the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of preparation for the new year, we enter the season of change. These poems of autumnal and human transformation help bring us into the spirit of Elul, which begins on Aug. 30. Note that in Rachel Barenblat's poem, "forty days" refers to the forty days between the first of Elul and Yom Kippur.


They will rasp
like some dying in bed—

and choose motion and pause
like divining shells. You

will foot through the dusk’s wing
of purple pines, and eye

the white flares of tails:
At this moment,

a maple leaf might discover the current—
loop fiery: a sudden sacrament.

At home, you mount each of these shed
scales on your wall as a memorial—devotion

in desiccated veins
and collapsing boxes

of general cells—
as the body twists back—

as the body gestures to recollect
what was, and will be, forgotten.

Adam Lavitt


Forty days of Flood
forty years between slavery
and what came after

even Moses took forty days
atop Horeb
for revelation

no coincidence
the Rabbis found forty

weeks between a woman’s
last blood
and the birth of a child

an idea takes
from seed to fruition

so from the first sliver
of Elul moon we wake
to the cry of shofar

forty days until Yom Kippur
brings whatever rebirth
we can muster

forty times
we chant our longing
a house of holiness all the days

of our lives
here in Massachusetts
the first of Elul means

through my windows blaze
the first yellowed branches
autumn’s strange fire

and even if my mouth
honeyed with television
forgets the psalms

my spirit remembers
think fast

the change is coming

Adam Lavitt is a poet currently residing in Jerusalem.

Rachel Barenblat is a writer of essays, poems, and liturgy.

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