This is the Hebrew month of Elul, the month of teshuva. Teshuva, often translated as repentance, more precisely means return – a return to G-d, and to the essence of who you are. Every soul comes into a body with a specific Divine mission and purpose. But life in the body, especially in this complex, distracting physical universe, inevitably causes the soul to lose touch with itself.
Physical life demands that you spend a fair amount of time and energy just working to acquire what you need to survive. And once you’re out there acquiring, it’s natural to look to the physical world to provide you with pleasure as well.
This is not a problem, except that the intense focus on the physical that life demands can easily cause you to forget who you really are and why you’re here.
So why did G-d design the world this way?
Like a game of hide and seek, G-d conceals Himself within the distractions and challenges of the world, and waits for you to find Him. He wants you to remember that you’re supposed to be seeking. It’s easy to remember when everything is spiritual. But when it’s physical – and when the physical reality is so demanding and so tempting – remembering what you’re here for can be a very big challenge.
Facing up to this challenge is the ultimate gift you can give to G-d. And when you do so, you are revealing your own essence as well.
The problem is, sometimes we forget the object of the game.
Elul is the time to remember. As the last month before the brand new year, it’s the ideal time to get back in touch with the point of it all.
How do you do this? Two ways. First, by noticing where you’ve veered off course, and second, by redefining and recommitting to a life that is a true expression of your authentic self.
In Elul, the “King is in the field”. This means that in this month, more than any other, G-d makes himself accessible to every person, no matter his or her physical or spiritual state. He’s left the heavily guarded rooms of the Palace to join you here, in your real everyday life. He’s waiting with a smiling face to answer your requests for all those things that you need to survive and thrive in this physical world – and to help you use those things not to distract you from your mission and purpose, but to enhance it.
Here are some steps to help you take advantage of the last week of Elul:
Visualize the future: Who is it that you could be if you only you weren’t caught up in the struggle to survive? And if you were committed to living as that person, what would you do differently? Look especially at your relationships, including your relationship with G-d and your relationship with yourself. Be specific.
Clean up the past: Is there anything you have to ‘clean up’? Is there anybody you hurt or disappointed, including yourself? Apologizing for the past and making a new authentic commitment for the future is the essence of teshuva. Your future begins NOW – but in order to live it, you’ll need to let go of the past. Often, the biggest obstacle in the way of being who you want to be is a past that hasn’t been laid to rest.
Bring it into action: Which of those things are you committed to do, and when? Remember, even the most insignificant of actions is infinitely more powerful than the greatest intention. Take at least one action this week that will open up something new for you.
**Since the Torah forbids the erasing of G-d’s name, it’s customary to avoid writing it out in full