It’s a busy time.
For some of us, being considerate, kind and empathetic comes easily, and for others it is the equivalent of a five-hour trek. This month, Elul, is called the month of compassion and forgiveness.
Next letter, I will be more practical, and tell you what works in making this happen. This letter is just a sort of road map.
If you want to use the spiritual force that the month contains, you can do so by finding the part of you that is genuinely compassionate. It’s not easy. You can become hardened to events that don’t touch your life directly, or tragedies that happen to people you don’t know, and this is natural. The first step may very well be learning to be compassionate to yourself. When the Old Girls come by, some of them have.
Do you think that we humans as a group are kind to ourselves? I don’t see much evidence for this. We treat our bodies badly by denying it what it really needs (you know the canon-sleep-excursive-wholesome food in reasonable amounts). Do you? The way we treat our souls can be even less compassionate. Your soul is beautiful, full of light and eternal. It finds expression through your body.
It’s easy to forget. Your love of pleasure like mine makes taking care of your body a challenge. Your love of dominating, winning, coming out on top no matter who you put down, makes taking care of your soul difficult. Elul is the time for being good to yourself.
There are 13 attributes of mercy that Hashem revealed to us when He forgave us for building the golden calf. They reveal the core of what humans can grasp of Hashem’s relationship to us. The first two invoke His Name twice (Hashem! Hashem!). Rashi explains that this is to tell you that He doesn’t change. His compassion for His creations that inspired the world from its very beginning doesn’t change. Even though He created a perfect world with perfect people in it, and ended up with the world as you see it, His compassion and love for His creations is unchanged.
You can reasonably ask why then so many things happen that seem to point in other directions?
The one thing that you can easily observe when you look at the world is that everything has a purpose. The ecosystem is elegant, elaborate and still largely unknown. I went to the aquarium last week. There are fish that defy conventional description. Their colors aren’t like any of the colors that I know words for (and I grew up with Crayola 64 colors!). Humans are the most complex of all. He gave us the ability to make free moral choices, which by definition means that bad choices will be made. You can ask yourself, when you encounter painful situations, the only question that really matters-what can I do to make things better, more aligned with the compassion that is the deepest part of me.
My husband and I were in a taxi headed north. It was hot the way Israel can be hot. On the side of Highway 1, the Jerusalem -Tel Aviv highway we saw an older man in a wheelchair on the curb of the walkway. We asked the driver if we could stop for a moment to see what was happening-he was completely alone, the sun was beating on him, and the cars were the only sign of life nearby. The driver, being Israeli cut through 4 lanes of traffic. He went with my husband to investigate. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak. The driver took charge of the situation, and using hand signals got the man to more or less direct him to Kiryat Moshe, and leave him in a synagogue there. The entire episode took about 10 minutes. The driver apologized (!) for taking so long, and offered to deduct some money from the cost of the ride. My husband said that we want to do the opposite, to give him more money for what he did. He turned towards us and said, “I won’t sell this mitzvah for any price”.
I wish I was him, but I am me.
And you are the one Hashem made, who can do
What only you can do
Have compassion for others,
And for your sweet unique and beautiful Souls
Love and have a wonderful Elul,