We are now in the beginning of the month of Elul, better known as the month of repentance.
On a simple level, it can be understood that in the upcoming month of Tishrei (sign of Libra), we will all be judged. Therefore, we should cleanse ourselves beforehand. But there is a deeper secret to this month.
The Creator imbued every month with a different essence and Light. In the month of Elul the Gates of Heaven are opened, and the Creator is closer to all of us. The kabbalists say, “the Creator is close to all those who call him . . . ” This refers to the month of Elul. This month is a gift – don’t let it pass without taking full advantage of it.
You can open this gift up by looking inside. In this month, judge your life, in the truest sense of the word. Look back at the year gone by and evaluate where you were spiritually and where you want to be. Reflect on what you did and what you wish you didn’t do. Then think of ways to rectify your actions.
Judging oneself is difficult. There is a parable from Rav Yehuda Leib Lazarov that can help us understand the tricks that the “negative side” will play on us:
A simple farmer filled his wagon with the crops of that year. There were many bundles, and he wanted to put them in his barn. He opened the doors to the barn and pulled the horses by their reins.
The horses fit inside the barn, but the wagon got stuck. The wagon was so full with crops that it simply could not fit through the doors. Uselessly, the farmer beat the horses, but of course the wagon did not budge.
A prankster walked by and said, “Why do you hit your horses for no reason? Don’t you see that the crops cannot fit through the door?”
The farmer asked him, “What can I do?”
The prankster answered him, “Buy these binoculars from me; they enlarge everything you see, so when you look at the opening it will grow. That way you will be able to pull the wagon in without much difficulty.”
The farmer bought the binoculars, and the prankster went on his way. The farmer looked at the opening through the binoculars, and lo and behold, it was quite large. The farmer then pulled the horses’ reins, but still they did not budge. So he hit the horses again, and still there was no movement. He thought to himself,
“The opening is so large, but why can’t the wagon fit through?” He called to the prankster: “Wait, why is the wagon still stuck?”
The prankster answered, “You fool, don’t you understand? The opening is larger, but if you look at the crops with the same binoculars as the wagon, you will see that the crops have also grown larger!”
The farmer looked with the binoculars at the wheat, and he saw that it was true: The opening was larger, but so were the crops. All was as it was before. He called out and said, “You have not helped me at all. Take the binoculars and give me back my money!”
The prankster yelled back at him, “This is not so! When you look at the wheat, you should reverse the binoculars and look at it through the other side, which minimizes everything, and all will work out fine!”
He waited until the farmer turned the binoculars around and looked at the wheat. The farmer’s face then turned happy, as truly the wheat had shrunk dramatically. The prankster then quickly disappeared.
The farmer focused his gaze through the reverse side of the binoculars and pulled the reins of the horses. They pulled, but to no avail. He whipped them, but nothing happened.
The farmer was dumbfounded; he could not understand what had transpired. He looked at the opening with the binoculars, and it was so large; then he reversed the binoculars and the wheat was so small. The opening is so large and the wheat is so small, and yet the wagon still does not go in . . .
Meanwhile a wiser man walked by and saw the farmer looking through the binoculars and whipping his horses for naught. He said to the simple farmer, “You fool, don’t you understand that the binoculars won’t change the reality?”
The farmer asked: “What, then, can I do?”
He answered, “It is really very simple! Remove crops from the wagon so that the rest will fit the opening easily.”
When we hear stories about foolish people, we may say to ourselves, “How could anyone be so silly?” But once we understand the parable, we see that we are the foolish ones. We are the simple farmer.
There is a reason, unfortunately, why we are apathetic during the month of Elul: We are aware that we are not perfect. We all know that we are nearing the day of judgment with a wagon full of negative actions. Why do we think that we will be able to enter the Gates of Mercy?
It is because the negative inclination has sold us magic binoculars. On the one hand, they magnify the amount of mercy and forgiveness, and on the other hand they minimize our negative actions.
What can we do about this self-deception? We can disregard the binoculars of falsehood, look truthfully, and be cautioned. We can understand that when we remove and cleanse the mountain of negative actions from the wagon through our intense spiritual work during this month, the wagon will pass through the Gates!