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A Month of Taking Accounts

On October 2-4, Jews will celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and the “Birthday of the World.” Rosh Hashana is a holiday that is both cause for joy (we have made it to another year, and we have the opportunity to start fresh!) and serious reflection (who have we truly been in the past year, who do we want to be in the next year?).

Luckily, we get a running start for the emotional workout of Rosh Hashana in the month that leads up to it, the Jewish calendar month of Elul, which we are in the last weeks of now. But Elul is also a time to examine our place in the world and the patterns we have in our daily material lives.

In Elul, we are invited to reflect on the past year: How we have treated ourselves, our families, coworkers and friends, how we have grown and what we’ve accomplished, when have we let fear or unhealthy patterns hold us back. Elul requires that we engage in a spiritual practice of soul searching that in Hebrew is kheshbon ha’nefesh, which literally means “soul accounting,” just like a financial reckoning.

So if Rosh Hashana corresponds to January 1, the moment to make resolutions for the New Year, then Elul is the period to review the balance sheets of our own personal life and practices. Elul is the time we prepare for Rosh Hashana when we decide what relationships, commitments and actions we will begin anew or resolve to invest ourselves in for the first time.

Traditional Jewish practice and preparation for Rosh Hashana is notable because we assess our worldly actions, not just our spiritual attitudes. That’s why attention to our spending habits, our business practices, our charitable decisions and our investment choices are as much a part of Elul as any spiritual or meditative reflection. In Elul we have a chance to consider whether the ways we use money are aligned with the rest of our basic – and best – values. This is a fundamental Jewish sensibility, so much so that the practice of Tzedekah, righteous giving and investing, is linguistically rooted in the word for “justice,” (tzedek). That’s why what we call Impact Investing amounts to a spiritual strategy to make change and achieve justice.

This year Elul – the Month of Accounting – and Rosh Hashana bring us an opportunity to do Tzedakah (Justice Investing) and create genuine benefits for low-income communities in the U.S. and worldwide. We can enroll in the Tzedek Alliance, which is the Jewish component of the Jubilee Assembly, Calvert Foundation’s faith-based network that builds community, promotes economic equity and helps sustain the planet. Check out and enroll in this network and learn how to make impact investments that will help change the world for this New Year.

Elul is the final month of the concluding year; it’s the time for our personal year-end audits. So when we ask ourselves about our time, energy, relationships and deeds, we should also review our money: how we spend it and where we invest it. Considering how to get our money practices to align with the values we hold for the rest of our lives will put us in a great position to make decisions for the New Year that we can be proud of – and which will help change the world as we work to change ourselves.