I love Elul. The freshness, the hope, and most of all the sense of being able to negotiate the past and present are all so sweet.
The Ohr HaChaim lets you answer the doubts that tend to rise when you feel like you are treading water. You want to be more and do more, but sometimes you may feel defeated.
Look at yourself hard enough to notice that there are three hurdles to deal with. They are universal, and that tells you that you can deal with them, just as every other human can; we face the enemy, and find that he is us…and often times we win.
1-The yetzer hara (generally translated as the evil inclination) has to be understood. Everyone likes destruction. It’s empowering! It can be (ironically) so charged that you can confuse it with creativity. If you can get yourself back to your post toddler years you may remember how good it felt to knock down the leggo tower that you just built. It made you feel “in charge”, empowered, and strong. Here’s where things get complicated. You knew the good feeling of destruction even before you knew how good it is to give and to connect. The yetzer hara has been with you for years; he has a head start.
2-The problem of instant gratification can’t be overstated. Saying the wrong thing, but feeling the surge of “gotcha” happens in seconds. Impulsivity in every area of sensory pleasure is often the tool that the yetzer hara uses to get you to do what you would never do in a saner moment.
3-Your sense of “normal” can change. The third time you make a bad choice and do something that you know very well is bad for you, t doesn’t overwhelm you with guilt the way it may have done the first time.
After analyzing why things are so hard to change, Ohr HaChaim doesn’t leave you in the lurch. “It’s true”, he says, “If you and to fight this battle alone, with your strength as your only ally, you would recognize that you will lose. You just don’t have the strength to win this kind of war. However, the Torah tells you that even when actual soldiers went to war in earlier times, a specially appointed Kohein had to tell him, “Hashem’s is with you. His great strength will save you”
There are all sorts of ways in which you can do the equivalent of opening y our h and to receive Hashem’s help. Rav Meilech Biderman wrote, Learn from a ship at sea.
It says in Yirmiyahu, “Who places a path in the sea”, Hashem makes it possible for you to navigate even when there are no signs to guide you. This the Arizal said, refers to Elul. Objectively there are no paths in the sea. There is no set route so you have to chart your own path. There are some basic rules you have to know, (such as how to use a compass), but for the most part he is on his own.
Everyone has his own path, his own purpose in being here, and his own destination. Everyone has to discover their own path of tshuvah. You find your way based on examining your talents, your tests, and the role that Hashem gave you in life. Each one of these three things ultimately are gifts, presented to you so you can become the person you want to become.
When you examine yourself honestly, it’s time to go on to the next step. You open your hand and to receive the help Hashem has ready to extend to you from the moment you were created.
Your path. Your destiny.
Your set of wings
That take you higher
Into a place that you
Never never never
Wanted to go
Until you were there.