This summer, I have learned that often the bridge between knowing what you’re supposed to do and doing it, is doing something.
On par for the circumstances of 2020, I have recently spent many long hours thinking about myself. I began feeling heavy with regret for things I have done and said, things I haven’t done or said, and things I continue to do and say wrongly. In this season, regret, charata, has redemptive potential. It is a foundational step in the process of teshuva (repentance) we are meant to undergo. Regret attuned me to a need for change, but it was not productive or inspirational on its own; it was a mental and physical downer. I wanted to harness the potential of regret into something uplifting. I looked for small ways to restart each day’s physical actions, like responding to five texts, making breakfast, signing up for a meditation app even if they weren’t strictly related to my ruminations. Incremental changes in behavior invest me with the strength to change more.
An interesting shift occurs in the last line of Psalm 27, a psalm we have the custom to recite during the month of Elul. The speaker, who has been addressing G-d throughout, suddenly addresses himself: Look to the LORD; be strong and of good courage! This shift reminds me of a sudden interruption in Devorah the Prophet’s mostly third-person account of victory, the Song of Devorah. March on, my soul, with courage! she commands herself, the Metzudat Zion commentary asserting that she means to emphasize I, myself must do this.
The pandemic has served as an interruption in our personal stories, desires and progress. The month of Elul, with the blowing of the shofar as symbol and catalyst, is supposed to give us pause for thought too. We can utilize these interruptions by taking each day as an opportunity to restart with small, strengthening practices that not only mitigate feelings like retroactive regret, but give new life to our habits, from which we can continue to derive inspiration.
Maayan Schoen graduated from Torah Day School and Atlanta Jewish Academy. She studied in the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for Women in Israel and is now a sophomore at Yale University.