Elul is a time to acknowledge specific acts of wrongdoing as well as the more subtle ways of missing the mark – the times we hardened our hearts or held on to evil thoughts. We uncover a deeper truth about Judaism and our humanity when we not only focus on what we’ve done, but what we failed to do.
Each day there are acts of goodness that we can perform: a kind word, a little patience, a helping hand. The focus on sins and mistakes makes it possible to overlook the small things that we could and should be doing.
The issue, therefore, is not only our misdeeds, but apathy. Recalling and recounting our sins challenges us to change and grow, improve relationships and perform acts of kindness. It inspires us to be a mensch – a full human being.
(Inspired by Rabbi Irving Greenberg)