A day or two before Rosh Hashanah I saw this tweet by Rabbi Chaim Bruk, the dynamic Chabad Rabbi in Montana. First I scrolled by, but then its significance hit me.

Of course, this prioritizing of Elk Chasing over Rosh Hashanah is disheartening (though sadly no longer surprising), but it also intrigued me.

Chasing Elk! I’m assuming this involves hunting of sorts?

Look, I wish he took up Rabbi Bruk on the Rosh Hashanah dinner offer, but seeing this (as the Baal Shem Tov taught) must be a lesson or metaphor, so what’s the Rosh Hashanah message here?

Had to look this up, as I’m not familiar with hunting nor elk, but it appears elk (despite their large size, & seemingly a bigger easier target) are very elusive & quite difficult to hunt. The overall elk hunting success rate is very low, some say as low as 10-20%. Even permits are complex. Finding an ideal space isn’t easy. Elk can run 40 MPH, they can jump 8 feet vertically, can be aggressive when sensing danger. They are especially sensitive to human presence, studies say they go from public lands to private lands in hunting season!

Our efforts and struggle to see change in areas of personal growth & spiritual striving can perhaps be likened to hunting elk. It’s not for the faint-hearted, not meant to go it alone, & failure is part of the game. Best with preparation, perseverance, not something done on the fly or on a whim.

You can’t hunt elk (again, I’m not at all a hunter, but so I’ve read) from a short jaunt into the edge of a wilderness. You can’t do this from a road. One has to venture far & deep, away from one’s comfort & familiarity. And 10-20% success rate won’t dissuade an elk hunter.

Lest there be concern to learn spiritual parallels from chasing elk & to use hunting as a life metaphor, there’s the famous Chassidic parable of fearsome bear hunting with the teasing dogs that the legendary Chassid Reb Mendel Futerfas would vividly retell, which he heard and adapted from a Russian Cossack tradition from a fellow prisoner in Soviet prison.

But not everyone is an “elk hunter”, in fact most are not! There are many ways to Rosh Hashanah that don’t rise to this challenging, difficult to reach level of spiritual striving… every Jew can/should experience accessible Rosh Hashanah, Shofar & spiritual connection!