THE HIGH HOLIDAYS are just weeks away. During Elul, the month before on the Jewish lunar calendar, it is customary to sound the shofar every day in anticipation of the upcoming holidays. The shofar reminds to prepare ourselves spiritually for the New Year. It’s a time of self-reckoning. Think of it as a trip to your accountant before April 15th, except this time it is time to look on your personal action. Taking a hard look at what you have achieved and what areas need improvement. Jewish mysticism teaches that Elul is a time when divine qualities of mercy shine from the heavens above.
While we may not see the Divine Mercy, we sense it. The month before the High Holidays is a moment we should seize for introspection, and resolution to change. In Judaism this process is called, Teshuvah, commonly thought of as repentance. The actual meaning is to return. The deeper idea is that a Jew is returning to their spiritual core. Each person posses a G-dly Soul; the true essence of what makes us human. It yearns to do good deeds, to live a life of meaning, caring, and connection to G-d. Teshuva means we reveal that spiritual essence and refocus our lives.
The weeks before the High Holidays are prime time for this personal transformation that needs to done in two spheres. The mitzvahs between man and fellow man and the mitzvos between man and G-d. When it comes to the commandments between Man and G-d it is quite simple. We resolve to change, and stop the behavior that is contradictory to the teachings of the Torah. The High Holidays wipe the slate clean, and all is good.
When it comes to others more needs to be done. If we offended someone, mistreated a loved one or coworker more needs to be done. First, there must be commitment to behavior modification. A real effort not to repeat the negative behavior. There is another essential element; we must seek the forgiveness of the person we have offended. Once they have accepted our apologies then all is good. If we try repeatedly and they still refuse, then we have done our best and have no further obligation.
A great Chassidic sage one said, “Children like to be happy, adults like to be right.” Look at kids playing, one moment all is well, a few minutes later, there is a fight, and almost as fast, they are friends again. Adults are quite different. “Ten years ago at the Bar Mitzvah I was offended, I am not forgiving him, no matter what.” We carry around grudges for years and years. We focus on the hurt instead of finding ways to heal it. If G-d-Hashem can forgive us, why is it so hard for us to forgive people? The High Holidays teach us, that it’s more important to be happy than be right. And it is more important to model good behavior within our relationships- even if it means being the one to say I am sorry when we are not at fault. We can recreate bridges, thus repairing broken relationships.
Let us use this special time before the Holidays to forgive and forget. Let us make amends with our families, friends and G-d above. In the merit of our courage to confront our weakness, may G-d grant us a wonderful New Year.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen/Chabad. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.