Rosh Chodesh Elul
I sit on my rooftop looking out over the Hudson, remembering a summer that flew by. As I enter the month of Elul there is a bittersweet sense as I review my past year. I am reminded of the gifts and the challenges that unfolded. Examining the faces of my children I wonder how they have grown so quickly.
I think back to the shabbat afternoon where we all sat together laughing and playing The Game of Life. Or the day my, 13 year old, daughter returned from camp. Excitedly she anounced, “Mom I made you something” and she carefully pulled out the crimson tallit that she created for me, with the atara (crown) that says Mama Rabi. This from the child who tells me often enough that she does not want me to become a Rabbi.
And my son, shadowed by the Colorado twilight, looking up at the creatures that fly above arguing with me;
“Mom, those are birds.”
“No way Eddie those are bats” I adamantly reply.
Only to find out days later that I was wrong and my nine year old right.
I gather each moment like a spark that illuminates a darkened corner of my mind.
But those are not the only moments I remember. My mind transports me back to a week in Orlando where I screamed more than I ever have in my life. My children were utterly disrespectful and ungrateful. And to the moment where my son, after playing on my phone for 1 hour refused to hold it for me when I was carrying 4 heavy bags and planning him a play date.
Suddenly the memories of connection disappear and judgement blinds me.
And then I remember that God too is about to embark on that same journey of remembering. Like a parent, God remembers those moments of tender connection and holds them higher than all others. Rather than reprimanding us for the mistakes we have made, we are called to return to Gods loving arms through the act of teshuva.
The Rabbis teach us that before creating man God asked the Torah for guidance. The Torah’s response- “don't do it, those people, they will sin”. Well, God does not say no to a challenge. However, he built in a failsafe, teshuva. The rabbis tell us that God had a conversation with teshuva, “I am going to create humanity, they will sin, when they return to the path you are responsible for absolving them.” This was the deal, built in from the beginning.
God knew that we would struggle and built in to creation the promise of returning. I have to tell you as a human being I am grateful, as a parent I am jealous. I wish I new how to forgive as quickly as God. But this month of Elul, this month of return, reminds me that I can always be forgiven and therefore I can allow forgiveness to be a part of my life. The truth us I have the most difficulty forgiving others when I can not forgive myself. When I let go of my internal critic, when I allow teshuva to play its part and I let go of my own guilt, I become a better parent, because now I too can forgive. Then I can meet them where they are, right now rather than in those past mistakes. And each moment becomes a new opportunity for connection.
May this Elul be one of deep release and return to that place of connection.