16 August, 2023

Elul: 29 Journaling Prompts for 29 Days

Elul— the final month of the Hebrew calendar is here, which means the High Holidays are near and so is renewal, atonement and fresh starts. 

As the final month of the year, the Hebrew month of Elul immediately precedes the "High Holy Days" of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the "Day of Atonement.")  Jewish tradition welcomes us to use this 29-day month to undertake a cheshbon nefesh, or “accounting of the soul.”

Did you know that the four letters of Elul (א ל ו ל) are said to be an acronym for אני לדודי ודודי לי, “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me,”expressing the closeness that we experience with G‑d, the Divine, the spiritual— during this time.  

Elul calls to us— to turn inward towards our soul, outward toward nature and our fellow man; to zoom both out and in in perspective. It beckons us to recall our most sacred and authentic selves, to return to ourselves and nourish it anew. It is a time for taking an account of our year, and envisioning our very best selves, going forward. 

It is at this time of year that Jews focus of teshuva. The Hebrew word “Teshuva” is often translated to mean “repentance.” But it is more etymologically accurate to translate the word teshuva as “return.” During Elul and the High Holy Days, we are given this gift of return—to ourselves, to our loved ones and to our spirituality. There is no more auspicious time in the Jewish calendar than now to reflect, introspect and prepare to repair the world.

With all of this in mind, it is a productive and beautiful custom to journal during the month of Elul— utilizing each of the 29 days to reflect upon new concepts that might aid in a meaningful atonement, and fresh start. When approached with intention, writing can be a profound practice. 

In the days of Elul that leading up to the High Holy Days, I wanted to offer you, dear readers, a few journal prompts to explore for each of the 29 days of this beautiful and sacred time. 

However "religious" or "spiritual" you may be, whatever your spiritual practice or exact beliefs, anyone can benefit from taking part regardless of where you approach the experience from.

Jewish and new to Elul? Dip a toe.

Out of practice? Give it a whirl. 

Very in touch with the Jewish calendar but in the mood for new prompts? Jump on in. 

Not even Jewish but interested in joining in? Welcome.

Enjoy. May it be a meaningful Elul for you, wherever the moon may shine her light upon you.


  1. What do you hope for in the New Year?
  2. What is forgiveness? How do you define forgiveness? What does it feel like? Sound like? Look like? How do we forgive?
  3. What makes a good apology? 
  4. What is your relationship with your body and health, and think about how you might realistically change or maintain that relationship in the coming year. What does your ideal relationship with health look like?

  5. The Hebrew word “Teshuva” is often translated to mean “repentance.”
  6. But it is more etymologically accurate to translate the word teshuva as “return.” What does teshuvah mean to you? How do the various translations resonate more or less? 

  7. What have you discovered this year about creating boundaries to insure your own self-care? It has been a struggle for many of us “to refill the well” when responsibilities have demanded perpetual giving, attention focused outward. How have you been able to nourish yourself? Recall, tell the stories of, times when you were able to prioritize yourself, triage demands, perhaps learned to say “no,” or “not now”? How can you grow as an advocate for your own health and wellbeing?
  8. What would it look like for humanity to do teshuvah for our abuse of the earth?
  9. Write an apology to yourself, and then respond to it. Do you forgive yourself for the lack of trust? For speaking badly about yourself? How can you do better next year?

  10. What miracles did you witness in the past year? You can list them or write about one—anything goes.

  11. What’s one good habit you aspire to embrace? When will you start?

  12. Find a calm place and listen to the sounds around you. What do you hear? What does it mean to listen to yourself? To "listen to the Shofar?
  13.  During the past year, have you acted to sustain others, whether materially or emotionally? Whose actions have sustained you? Have you been able to make the leap from kind thoughts to action? When you do act on behalf of someone else, do you stand in solidarity with them? What is one act of chesed that you have put off? When might you do it?

  14. Over the past year, have you done something in anger that you would not have otherwise? What would you have done differently if you had taken time before reacting?What about “righteous” anger? Have you experienced moments where anger motivated you towards positive action?

  15. When do you find it easiest to be patient? In what situations do you tend to become impatient? Are there any common triggers? Is there anyone you owe an apology as a result of your impatience?
  16. What does it mean to be good?

  17. What are some of your greatest insights/ pieces of wisdom that you now have that you didn’t have as strongly last year?

  18. Who inspires you and why? 
  19. How are you at balancing judgment and compassion when it comes to the actions of others? Do you tend toward one extreme or the other? What about when it comes to your own actions?

  20. If your soul could speak, what would she say?

  21. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof: How do I seek justice, and for whom? How do I participate in tikkun olam, aka: repairing the world?

  22. Who do you yearn to be?
  23. What do you need to release or embrace in order to shine more brightly?

  24. How effectively do you really listen to what others say to you, reflect on it, and act accordingly? What gets in the way of your being able to listen attentively to others? Do you find yourself planning the next thing you want to say? Distracted by electronics? Wrapped up in your own thoughts? Does this tend to happen more in one area of your life than in others?

  25. Where is the land of your soul? How can you "return?"

  26. When do you experience yourself as most full, joyous, awake? Describe what circumstances seem to make that spirit blossom; what circumstances sabotage them. Are there changes that suggest themselves to optimally enliven you?

  27. How are you being called to take responsibility?

  28. What are you turning away from and what are you turning toward?
  29. As you reflect on the past year, can you think of particular times in which you have you opened your heart and hand to others? Have you held back from extending help to those in need? Have you made a habit of generosity? If so, how? If not, what would that look like?



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