It’s that time of the year again. The time when the gates of heaven are open and G-d is in the field, mixing with His people in a way that a King would never during any other time. He comes out from behind the palace gates, dresses in our garb, and sits with us. It’s an odd concept to grasp, and every year, it takes time for me to understand just how powerful it is. The fact is that, during this time of the year, things are different. For a short amount of time, the King becomes just like us. The barriers are broken. So, why is that I find myself behaving so much worse than I have the rest of the year? Every year, Elul comes around, and all logic flies out the window. During the other 11 months of the year, I try my hardest to work on my character, on my spirit. I try to cleanse all the gunk and junk off my soul; I try to purify myself. But suddenly, Elul is at my doorstep, and I throw caution to the wind and begin to behave like a behema (Hebrew for wild animal. Think ‘behemoth’). It’s almost as though I say to myself: “Screw this! I don’t need to work on myself anymore. it’s too hard! I can be as awful as I please, and if G-d doesn’t like it, well that’s just too darn bad.” I know I should work harder during this time, but the wave of exhaustion and thoughts of not succeeding in the challenge of becoming a better person rise. So, I give up, and I find myself back at square one. Time to strap on those boots and get back to work.
Why is it that the King comes to the field and I run as far away as I possibly can? It’s not because I don’t want the connection or the relationship with Him because its quite the opposite. I want the connection so badly that I feel as though my heart might explode. I want so much to be close to my G-d, I want to feel the connection, to feel the warmth and the safety. So, why do I run in the opposite direction as though a stampede of wild animals is running after me? Why do I find things to hide behind instead of owning up to who I am and what I have done and knowing with my whole heart that the King will still accept me? Why is that such a hard concept to grasp? There’s a second side to turning your back as well. There are those who run, but then there are those who don’t care. I’ve met so many people who just don’t care. Life comes and goes, they pay no mind to G-d, wherever He is. They plow through life with their minds completely turned off to the connection. And then there are people like me, who run away. Which is worse? Not caring or caring so much that you turn love into cowardice?
I’ve done many things that I am not proud of. I’m sure that’s a universal feeling that comes with the territory of being human. There’s a difference however, in making a mistake once out of pure innocence and making a mistake again and again, almost as a way of spite. I feel like a rebellious teenager. How many times can I lie, steal, cheat and generally piss off my parents before they turn their backs on me for good? How many times can I do the wrong thing before G-d throws His hands up in the air and says “she’s a lost cause, I give up.” That’s just the thing. Giving up isn’t an option. When I was younger, my idea of G-d was very different. Though I have now come to understand that G-d is everywhere, I once believed that G-d stayed far, far away from the psychical world, and that we were meant to fend for ourselves. There’s always a way back, but that doesn’t make it okay to abuse the system. Is it better to convince yourself that one day, there may not be a way back, if only to find a way back faster? Or do you keep living with the knowledge that you will always be accepted, even if it makes the temptation to fail that much sweeter? Perhaps it is the knowledge of knowing that we’ll always be welcomed back no matter what will give us the strength to want to return time and time again. Or, perhaps it will give us the power not to leave at all.
We are taught that G-d does not give us tests that we cannot handle. I believe it with my whole heart. I know that I can handle the things that come my way. Which makes it all the more embarrassing, every year to stand before G-d on the holiest day of the year and say “Oh well, I tried and failed. I’ll try again and give you the report this time next year, sound good?” G-d gives the tools, but we have to meet him halfway. He gives the challenge but He also completes half of the tasks. The question is whether or not you are willing to recognize that change takes work. Challenges take work to overcome, even if you have the tools. Just like in any other relationship, you have to be willing to meet your partner halfway. You have to communicate how you feel and what you need. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader because it’s not part of the job description. Don’t expect G-d to do your half of the job.
So, the question is, where do I stand now? On the threshold of Rosh Hashana, with so much work to do and not enough time to get it done. I’ve spent this month hiding behind grains of wheat like a coward while the rest of the world has used the opportunity to their advantage, meeting the king halfway. I’ve prayed for miracles and made my requests, but I’ve done it from behind a brick wall, the thickness muffling my voice. I’ve tested my limits and the limits of my creator to see just how much I could get away with. It’s shameful. I look back at the year that I’ve had and found none so much embarrassment as I have found in this month alone. And yet, there’s still a path back to where I know I need to be. There is still time to make amends and behave the way one should before a King. There is still time to pick myself up, brush myself up, get over myself and go greet the King while I still can. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting out of your own head. Get out of your ideas, your thoughts, your needs, your wants. Remove the word ‘your’ from your vocabulary for just a little while, and make room for