Elul calls on us to begin the intense, important, life-changing work of Teshuvah, taking account of our deeds from the year which is ending and committing ourselves to turning away from the harm we have caused in the world in the year to come. We try to return to our best selves, making amends as we can and endeavoring to do better. As we reflect, however, it can be easy to move from the work of Teshuvah into the realm of self-effacement. “I should be better.” “I cause so much harm.” “I need to work harder.” These statements can, and do, spur us to make meaningful change in our lives.
For some of us though, the act of reflecting on our failings can do as much harm as good. If you are one of these people, take this moment of Elul to, in addition to Teshuvah, focus on the Ahavah, the love you have brought into the world. Yes, I have caused harm, but I have also brought others meals when they were struggling. I missed the mark at work, but I also covered my coworkers' shifts so they could be with their children at their school performances. I fought with my spouse, and I also made them their favorite meals when they had hard days at work. Elul calls us to reflect on our lives; let this reflection show a full picture of who we are, and may the image shown back to us spur us to lead lives balanced between “I am but dust and ashes” and “the world was created for my sake.”