American officials met Saturday to discuss the weekend closure of 22 US embassies and the severe travel warning issued to Americans abroad. The State Department has announced that the warning will remain in effect throughout August, and that this is the most serious threat that we have faced in years.
Unfortunately, there are no specifics about the threat except that in the past terrorists have targeted public transportation and tourist sites. The vagueness of this ominous threat is frightening. We don't know where or how or exactly who is planning to carry out the potential attack. The danger is everywhere.
It is like googling one symptom when you feel sick. You will get hundreds if not thousands of possible illnesses as a result of the search. It can take hours before you realize that you are back where you began: with a symptom and a fear that it can mean anything and everything. This is when most of us stop googling and make a doctor's appointment.
But what happens when there is nowhere to turn for answers? When there is a known threat with unknown parameters? When we can't google or predict or close down anymore embassies? Do we cancel our flights and trips? And what if the threat is closer still, like it was on September 11? What if the danger lies in walking into our own offices on a bright, summer day? We are all on alert. But for what?
This week the Jewish month of Elul begins, and we will hear the shofar each day. The cry of the shofar should stir us. It's a siren. A wake up call. There are threats to our souls, to our bodies, to our lives. The danger is everywhere, but most of the year our radar is off.
During Elul we hear the siren telling us to turn the radar back on. And suddenly we can hear a wailing in our hearts. So many warning signals we didn't pick up throughout the year, such disconnection from our Creator and ourselves that we don't know where to begin.
There are thousands of results for each symptom. But this is an opportune time to narrow down the search just by utilizing the power of this month's potential. The Hebrew letters of Elul are an acronym in Hebrew for: I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is for me. When the danger is everywhere, and we don't know where to turn, that is where we begin – with our connection to God. When we don't know how or where or who is attacking us, we listen to the shofar's ancient call telling us that this is the time to wake up. It beckons us to shut down our virtual searches and call out to the only One who can heal.
It warns us that the danger may be everywhere, but the Guardian of Israel is everywhere too. And perhaps this is His high alert message. It's Elul, and the shofar's cry is echoing throughout the world. Danger lurks everywhere; it's time to wake up.