Let me share something of my day.
I made a really stupid (yes, sometimes that’s the right word) mistake. The result was a great deal of having to eat humble pie and face the embarrassment of asking other people to renegotiate their plans because of my goof up. There was a time that I would have found this so unbearable that I would do my best to bury the entire incident in the sand. Today things are different. The moment I faced my victim wasn’t a picnic - I am not at that level - but afterwards I was able to go back (unfortunately not too far back) to times in which I judged other people’s inefficiency very harshly. The fact that I may have been right technically in seeing their mistakes as avoidable and reflective of lack of thought was mirrored by my own having made a mistake that was avoidable and the result of lack of thought. All in all, I think that Hashem did (as always) a great job of opening doors that I closed. And of course, there is no time like Elul for this to happen.
When you review your year (what an assignment!) you may find an unimaginable amount of freebies and almost unimaginable positive interventions, and a similar amount of challenges and difficulties. The truth is all of them are blessings, but it is reasonable to use a different word to describe your feelings about losing a job that you really liked to the way you describe your feelings about finding a job that is your dream. The fact is that some experiences are painful, and others give you immediate joy. The long term picture is often different, but hey, you are living today, not tomorrow. The deeper perception of what today is about may change your Elul.
The Torah tells us “Be simple with Hashem your G-d”. Targum Unkelos, the classical and original translation of Torah to Aramaic often substitutes commonly used Aramaic words for Hebrew words that are steeped in profound symbolism. He translates “simple” as “complete”. This is of course very close to the way we use the word “simple” in chemistry; it excludes compounds that are mixtures of more than one component. When you say “pure honey”, you mean “only honey”, simple honey unadulterated with any “improvements”. Being simple with Hashem means being willing to walk the path that He sets out for you without second guessing Him. The halachic side of this would mean that you don’t go to fortune-tellers, don’t give in to superstitious nonsense, and don’t try to predict the future using tarot cards or a Ouija board. It means more.
It means that when you are faced with a choice, you examine the realties that Hashem places in front of you. You accept the need to make choices as His will, and you do your best to make the choice that seems right at the time. What you don’t do is assume that if you don’t get the results that you wanted, that something necessarily was wrong in your choice making. Rather, look at the new reality you face, accept it, and move on with the next choice. Does that mean that your choices are irrelevant?
It means that your choices may not change what Hashem had in store for you, but definitely will change you. Rambam tells us that you can end up as great a tzadik as Moshe. No, he didn’t say that you will be as great a prophet (in fact he tells us that there will never be a prophet whose prophecies are like Moshe’s). It does mean that you will be as great on a human level as he was if you walk simply with Hashem, and make the best choices in the areas that He opens up for you).
One of the problems that I come across frequently is that some of you think that your lives are lived in the slow lane. You find yourself questioning how much difference your choices really make. Let’s say you are a programmer and come home at night, eat dinner, talk a little, read a book, maybe make a call or two, maybe take in a shiur once a week, maybe go to the gym or the pool, and then it's time to get ready for tomorrow. No headlines here.
Bear this in mind:
When Rivka gave Eliezer and his men and camels as much water as they needed, it wouldn’t have made the papers either. When Moshe went after a small lamb and ended up seeing the burning bush in which Hashem appeared to him, it was no doubt a day much like the day before. I am sure that this was not the first time that his compassion for his father in law’s flock came into play. When you work at your job with the kind of an example that brings some fresh air to your environment, when you encourage a friend to see herself as an interesting person by really listening to her when she talks about her day, when you call someone who needs a call (or call home and give something of yourself to your parents) you are changing yourself. You have no way of knowing how great the change in you is. It may take place when you say shema at night, and think for a moment about Hashem's unity, or when you feel life force flow through your body in the gym or pool and you recognize its source.
You are judged by Hashem for where you are, not for where someone else is. If you could be more simple, you might realize how many times you chose to draw closer to Him and to other people, you might feel the Ani LeDodi (I am for my Beloved) part of Elul, and let that open you up to recognizing how much the other part, VeDodi Li (My Beloved is for me) has always been there..