Cleaning out closets for Rosh Hashana leads us to the real work of the Hebrew month of Elul, preparing ourselves spiritually for the High Holy Days.
The Hebrew month of Elul begins, and with it comes a month of daily opportunities to right the wrongs we have done. Our main tasks of this month are two-fold: to ask forgiveness for those we have harmed, and to offer forgiveness to those who have harmed us. Clearly the winds of forgiveness should blow sufficiently to help us erase the errors of our ways.
The arrival of Elul reminds me of a story:
Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the sand: Today my best friend slapped me in the face.
They kept on walking, until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but his friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: Today my best friend saved my life. The friend, who had slapped and saved his best friend, asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now, you write on a stone, why?”
The other friend replied: “When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away, but when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
Elul is here. It brings with it a focus on transformation. Our lives change when we break through that which has held us back from forgiving and asking forgiveness. As the story teaches, learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your blessings in stone.