For an entire month a sense of preparation and getting closer to something significant has permeated the air. A chasidic tale describes The Days of Awe as a time when the king is in the field.
Rabbi Oren Duvdevani captures perfectly a subtle shift that takes place:
I sat down in the courtyard to study. It was the time of day when the breeze intensifies from the surrounding mountains, the wind quickly crossing the fields of my village just beyond the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]. Like always, today too the breeze was so warm. But suddenly, maybe for just one minute, perhaps it was even a half a minute, there was a hint of coldness, a nip . . . the air permeated with a shift in its scent, both a bitterness and vibrancy, like a bit of the tobacco of the nargila [hookah], something that ever so slightly brings a burn to the nose and the eye. In other words: that autumnal breeze. Like I said, it was fleeting, maybe 30 seconds. Yet it was crystal clear and it caused me to raise my eyes for a moment from the Gemara, and I said to myself: Elul!
This year, accompanying the usual heightened awareness of introspection and thoughts of personal improvement have been the heartwrenching video footage and photos of the Yazidi and Syrian refugees fleeing persecution.
We all awoke one morning to that drowned little boy, facedown, lifeless. He was folded into a cozy pose; he could have almost been any kid just napping, needing a warm blanket to cover him until he woke up. Yet, this tiny child was washed up like some inanimate flotsam and jetsam on the shore of a beach. A toddler on a journey with his family in hopes of finding relief from war-torn Syria, ending in tragedy.