As we all know, everyone falls and makes mistakes. The Talmudic commentator Rabbeinu Yonah points out that it’s one’s reaction to those transgressions that makes the person. If a person’s attitude is of horror and shame and he does teshuvah (he repents) then he has learned from his sin and will actually grow from it. If his reaction is – “this is cool, I’m going to try again,” or “I just can’t deal with this desire or need and I am just giving up on this battle,” well, for that our sages have some pretty tough words.
G-d knows that he created us as fallible human beings. We make mistakes. We have our ups and downs. We are going to trip and do things that we are not proud of. That’s not good, but it’s acceptable, as long as we learn from those mistakes and grow from them. Hashem wants our hearts. He wants us to be focused on the true purpose of our existence, the true essence of our being, which is to serve him, build positive loving relationships in this world and create and build lasting sustainable good. That is what He desires from us. Those are all part of a long journey, replete with hiccups along the way. If we stumble and get back up, we are viewed with the same loving kindness. If we fall and sink, Hashem still gives us an opportunity to get back on track, but we are now going to have to work much harder to get ourselves there.
Elul and Tishrei are usually times to look back at the year and focus on many of the things that we would like to change. 5780 was really, really challenging (understatement of the year). Many lost loved ones after long and protracted battles. Many went through their own health battles, whether COVID-19 related or not. Many lost their livelihoods or faced extreme uncertainty as to how they were going to move forward. Many had ambitious projects and plans that were collateral casualties of the pandemic. Anxiety and depression were probably more common than not. And no one has any idea what tomorrow or next month or 5781 will bring. We’ve all made some mistakes and said things that we really would like to take back. Many of those were born out of maddening frustration and dread.
But introspection also requires us to look back and appreciate all of the good that happened in 5780. We had the opportunity to really focus on our families. We remembered both the importance of our community, but also that we are individuals who can manage on our own. Many that were not able to be with their children received constant reminders of their families’ love. Zoom made us want to throw away our computers, but also brought family reunions with long lost cousins that we had not connected with in years. We had opportunities over the year to do things we never thought possible. Many began to realize that the borders of Israel were closed and began the journey of planning or at least considering Aliyah so that they could be inside instead of out. Countless acts of tzedakah and chesed that never would have come to the fore were enabled by the challenges that we faced. Many difficult interpersonal relationships were mended. And on and on.
See, we can focus on the daily drama and challenge and reflect on 5780 as a nightmare. Or we can choose to focus on what went right. We can focus on our overall outlook.
We generally focus during this time of year on all of our faults. We do still need to work on those. But maybe it would be healthy this year to focus on all of the good that we have accomplished. Not to be haughty. But to present to Hashem – See? I’m growing. I’m learning. I’m striving. I’m doing my very best to fight through the hurdles that You have presented me so that I can be the best spouse, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, community member, Jew that I can be. Here are my credentials. Please allow me to continue on this path, only maybe lighten up the hurdles in 5781. Please. I might stumble again, but I will not waiver in my commitment to You. Because ultimately, this is what Hashem wants from us.
We wish you a sweet new year, full of blessings, success, health and joy from your family. May this be the year that the entire Jewish people find their home and livelihood in Israel.