Mankind hangs on the edge of a precipice of despair. The one thing olding us back from falling off is the ability to repair the damage we do to our souls.
This ability is a gift from the Almighty that He didn’t have to give. Strict justice demands a punishment for a crime, that fits the crime, at the time of the crime. As I overheard a woman saying to her friend in a hotel lobby in the Catskills, ‘When I was younger and I broke Shabbos for the first time, I thought a lightening bolt would come out of the sky and kill me” Anyone with the audacity to violate the rules of their infinite Creator deserves immediate judgment. Our world might possibly have looked like this had God created the universe only manifesting the attribute of Justice.
However, Kabbalah tells us that God also manifests His will through the attribute of Love. Justice is mitigated, softened, and transformed into Mercy. The world we live in is not merely a place of rules. The principles taught by God are for our benefit. If God had desired robots to do good deeds all day long He wouldn’t have given us free will. Our freedom allows for mistakes. He knows we’re fallible. He knows we will have ups and downs. That’s the way He made us.
Therefore, He created a process of “teshuva,” which means “return” It is more commonly translated as “repentance,” but that word has inaccurate connotations. Teshuva is the recognition of what is the correct path, where you’re at, and how to get back. If you know you’ve lied this past year, for instance, and want to stop, you have to know why you lied. If you don’t, you’ll end up lying again, and then the teshuva is wasted. The Torah has advice on every area of transgression how to “return” to the principles and the values of holiness. Because the soul is connected to its source, it can never get so far away that it can’t find its way back.
God gives us time to realize our mistakes, signs pointing to what the mistakes are, and the process of correcting those mistakes. All of this comes out of His mercy. Not only that, but there are moments of time called “days of desire” when teshuva is in the air, or it’s an auspicious period for it. The entire month of Elul is one of those periods. One of the indications of Elul’s healing power of teshuva is the event of Moses going up the mountain for the second set of tablets. (See Exodus Chapter 34) This happened in Elul. God forgave the Jews for the sin of the Golden Calf and sent Moses back down with the second stone tablets. What looks to us like an unforgivable sin, God forgives. How could anyone bow down to an idol after experiencing God’s oneness the way they did’ The message of this incident is lost on most readers of the Torah. The point is not that some of the Jews at that time sinned so terribly. The point is the depth of God’s mercy that He forgave them.
Because Elul is ripe for teshuva, you are able to see more clearly what areas of your life need work. You have added insight into what is right and what is wrong. Make a list of what you ‘re doing well, and what you’d like to change. And don’t forget, the rules of the Torah are a means to an end The end is to become one with God. That’s the path to be on. The judgment is not so much on how many rules you’re following, as it is on what path you are on. Get back on the path.