I thought when I left yeshiva I would never have to hear those words screamed at me again, yet every week for the entire Elul (and during the week too if I make it to shul) I’ve been getting Elul drilled into me just like in my mussar filled yeshiva days. I kind of like it, I like mussar, I like passionate Rabbis (whether I agree with them or not) and I like feeling just a little bit guilty, because apparently it means I have the capacity to do proper teshuvah (as deemed by the black hat yeshivish world)
Like any skeptical, disenfranchised, not sure what to do – kind of dude – I have a love and hate relationship with Elul. All you need to do is go back into the archives of this blog and read all of my cries for help in dealing with this time of year. One year I decided not to daven and just do that “talking with God thing”, shul was long that year and they didn’t have any good books to read after my 10 minute conversation with God. This year I smiled to myself as the rabbi forcefully yanked open the bechirah can of worms last week, naturally he didn’t provide a solution to anyone who ever had that existential freedom of choice, but God knows all, conversation. Don’t tell me you haven’t had it at one point in your life? If there was ever a reason to ditch Yiddishkeit and eat bacon, the bechirah thing is a great one, the smoothest kiruv salesmen can’t make much sense of it and Avigdor Miller’s speeches on seeds and apples don’t help it at all.
Elul is different things to different people, one year someone let me know that I was on a high madreiga for feeling guilty about not feeling guilty enough to admit all of my sins and ask forgiveness. I kind of wish I was back on that madreiga, for now when I translate the vidui, I debate whether I consider that a sin or not. That’s what talking to enough Torah Im Derech Eretz, rationalist types, who don’t hold of kabbalah will get you. Then I have my chassidic friends who view it as a time of rebirth and that it’s not about guilt man, it’s about love of life and praying for good shit to happen in the next year man.
It doesn’t help that Rosh Hashanah is running into shabbos or that YK falls out on shabbos, but I think that the point of Elul is for all of frum skeptics to look into their souls and pour out their existential debates onto the web. That way we can make ourselves feel even worse about our states of mind. However, this year I feel kind of good about Elul. For the first time in my life, I’m using Elul as a good excuse for self improvement. I should admit that being married makes it much easier to do so, I’m not talking about self improvement in a strictly halachic sense, I’m talking about being happy with my lot and being kind to people I want to curse out and shove under a bus.
Obviously my madreiga is pretty low, it just clicked that God may or may have not f%$%ed me hard last RH, shit went down, but in the end it worked out for the best and things are starting to look pretty good in the near future. Then again, I feel like an ass if I just spend a few days being better and davening for good stuff if I’m just going to go back to my regular self. Hence, this mode of appreciation for life and trying to be a better dude. I think Elul transcends religion in my book, just an excuse, a little shove from the local crazy BT’s who are buying new suits and hiddur esrogim. Guilt is not even factoring into my psyche, maybe that’s bad, but it’s hard to feel guilty when you don’t consider much of the stuff to be a sin, but I’m not going into historical context and how every religion views masturbation as a crime against God.
Unfortunately for me, the rabbi has drilled some hardcore Slobodka-esque mussar into everyone’s brain and so while I’m working on making my wife good lunches to take with her to work, I’ll still be coming late to shul and missing z’man krias shema.
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