So, if I am good at what I do, if I’m deciding to act with khutzpa and self-confidence, how do I do Elul? What do I do t’shuva for? There are ways in which I’ve changed last year, some good (more tzedaka and piano practice) some less so (not as much exercise or time spent outside). What about this year? How can I do t’shuva then? Where have I wandered so far off the path that I need to return? My self-confidence was definitely one place that needed work. There are others. Maybe I’ll find them, God willing.
And that’s a part of it. Sometimes I forget that it’s all God willing. It makes such a huge difference – to what I say, to how I behave, to what I do – if I remember, if I know with all that I am, that there is a God, and that God may will my plans to fruition, whatever I do or don’t, and that God may not. When I am proud of my accomplishments, I am more proud when I remember that I accomplished something God wanted me to do. When I have a pathetic day, I can feel better by knowing it’s a necessary step along God’s path. With God, all activities have a meaning and a joy that they might not otherwise. The mundane and everyday becomes more beautiful if I’m doing it in honour of God.
The story of the water carrier who was one of the holy men of the world comes to mind. When he’d bring water to a family, he’d think about it being used to do the washing of their good clothes, of their fancy dishes that they would use for the Sabbath. He’d think about it being used to make the Shabbat meal and being used as part of the Netilat Yadayim – the hand washing. From Sunday onwards, as he lugged water from the stream to various villagers’ homes, he’d say to himself, this is likvod Shabbat – this is to honour the Sabbath.
Looked at in this way, it’s easy to see where I need to adjust my path – I need to remember that everything I do is to honour God, to walk in God’s path. It sounds a little crystals-and-bell-chimes, but there you go – sometimes, the crystals and bell chimes folks know something I can learn from. It doesn’t matter what people think of my actions. It is unimportant that I find them rewarding or dull. What matters is that the action feels like it would make God smile. These are thoughts that will take work, but over time should become automatic, ‘may this happen, God willing’, ‘I’ll be happy to take care of that, as it’s God’s will’, ‘In honour of the Sabbath, or the Torah, or God, I can do this’, ‘May God guide my steps or words…’.
I don’t know if it will change what I do. The water carrier still carried water, after all. But it will be good to do all of it, knowing that sometimes, I get it right, my actions are in the name of God, and they honour God and the world I live in.