"Hi All, Okay, this is going to be a really strange request. But I'm asking every one of you to help me."
This is how I started a mass e-mail I sent off two years ago. Still single at the age of 39, I didn't really want to go into my forties alone. Even though I know many women who got married for the first time in their forties, including my sister who married at 43, I felt that this year I really had to try something different, something more serious to reach my goal.
I was thinking about all of this in the Hebrew month of Elul, the month whose acronym from the Hebrew letters "Aleph," "Lamed," "Vav," "Lamed" represent the words "Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li" which means "I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me" (Song of Songs, 6:3). How romantic! Eight years earlier when I learned this, I thought, Elul is the month I want to get married in. But as every Elul went by, I felt sadder to know that maybe it would be at least another year for that wedding. And what if it was never?
But the year I was 39, I remembered a beautiful Chasidic teaching about the month of Elul. It is in this month that "the King is in the field." In Likkutei Torah, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi speaks of this in a parable:
Before a king enters his city, its inhabitants go out to greet him and receive him in the field. At that time, anyone who so desires is granted permission [and can] approach him and greet him. He receives them all pleasantly and shows a smiling countenance to all...
In Elul, God is accessible to each and every one of us in a way that He is not the rest of the year.
What exactly does this mean? This month is a very propitious time for prayer, self-introspection, and repentance. As we approach Rosh Hashanah we realize that even though God is with us all year round, in Elul, God is accessible to each and every one of us in a way that He is not the rest of the year. This is the time to really pour out our hearts and remember that God is right here.
With that in mind, I wrote the following e-mail to all my family and friends, Jews of all backgrounds and affiliations, and non-Jewish friends as well.
Okay, this is going to be a really strange request. But I'm asking every one of you to help me. Here is the deal: Thursday night begins the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul, which has a lot of significance in the Jewish calendar. It is the month before the New Year begins. And I'm sad that another year has gone by and I have not yet met my Beshert (soul mate) and gotten married.
This is where you come in! I am asking every person on my e-mail list to say a special prayer for me sometime in the next week that I should meet my soul mate, and get married. This would also be a great time to put in a good word for others you know who would also like to get married (including yourself, if applicable). The prayer doesn't have to be anything formal, just use your own words. If you don't believe in G-d, then just send the message out into the universe, to no one and to everyone! It couldn't hurt, right?
But wait, there's more, act now and you'll receive this bonus gift of a cool, specially-chosen-for-you photograph that I took, that I will e-mail to you! Wow, such a deal!
And that's not all! Just for being on my e-mail list, you'll receive, free of charge, an inspirational picture of a bride that I took at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Israel.
So, that's the deal. Let me know that you said a prayer (or whatever is comfortable for you) for me (and whoever else needs it), and I will send back a photo that is picked out especially for you!
The responses I got were amazing. So many people told me about how they prayed for me. Some friends in Israel made special trips to the Western Wall for me. Even my friends who really don't connect to their Judaism at all and my non-Jewish friends were happy to get in on the act.
It's funny that with all the outpouring of love and support, I completely forgot about my request by November. I was so involved with my new, challenging job, and more importantly with my serious new relationship, that by the time I was ready to get engaged, I never even mentioned it to my future fiance, even though we met at the end of Elul.
It was a couple relatives who reminded me. They wanted me to wait to announce the engagement for a few months. "What would all those family members and others think after you sent out that e-mail asking them to pray for you to meet your soul mate, and now just three months later you're engaged? They'll think you're crazy!"
I thought that was an interesting way to look at it, but the way I see it, instead of thinking that I am a nut case, my family and friends might actually see that when a person is willing to pour out her heart, humble herself to ask others for help, and really pray, it just might work!
In the month of Elul anything is possible. As Rosh Hashana approaches, we are entering the time when we all stand in judgment, so it is all the sweeter that we are given this chance to present ourselves to the King of the universe in a non-judgmental fashion. So, take advantage of this time, go "out to the field," open up your heart with honesty and let the "King" know what you need. Who knows! It worked for me.