Every so often, it happens – usually when I’m driving. I’m rolling along and everything is fine. Everything is, in fact, so normal that I’m barely paying attention. And then out of the blue, WHAM!
Now, hopefully it’s a metaphorical “wham”. But every once in a while it’s an honest-to-goodness, “SH**T! IS EVERYONE OK!?! Crap, that’s gonna cost me, but thank God everyone is ok.” type of “wham”.
And immediately after that moment, when the dust has settled, the mess is swept up, the nerves stop jangling, and I can think a little straighter I’m left wondering “Why in the world did I let myself get that careless?”
In the days and weeks that follow, the “wham” lingers in my brain, just out of sight. The feeling of of watchfulness persists, at least for a while. But inevitably, it seems, in the absence of further screw-ups (thank God) the feeling fades, only for the cycle to refresh itself months or years later.
Part of this is human nature. We make mistakes, have (and sometimes cause) accidents, and experience consequences.
But one of the interesting, and possibly glorious things about Elul, is how it’s designed to create that feeling of jangling, jarring, slightly paranoid watchfulness without the accident. The awareness that the year is coming to a close puts us in that state of mind. Whether we feel, deeply, the imminent judgement of our deeds by the Source; or instead the more earthbound accounting we are all prone to when one year transitions to the next, we are nevertheless sensitized to the coming moment of reckoning.
It is that, as much as the insistent blast of the shofar, that has the power to truly awaken our spirit and drive us to action.