In addition to my mother’s fair skin and love for the written word, I inherited her nearsightedness. I have worn corrective lenses in some form for most of my life. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is fumble for my glasses. If I can’t lay hands on them immediately, I can make out nothing but fuzzy shapes and colors. Without a lens bending the light coming into my pupil, my ability to resolve my surroundings into sharp focus is limited to no more than six inches in front of my face.
Sometimes my glasses get dirty without my notice. Since it happens so gradually, only when I recall that it’s been a while since I busted out the little microfiber cleaning cloth do I realize that I have had a smudgy, smeary barrier between myself and the world around me for who knows how long. It’s something of a shock to put on my newly de-fingerprinted glasses and see how much clearer my view is, considering that I hadn’t even noticed that they were dirty in the first place.
I think we all have a spiritual lens through which we look at the world. Mine is a Jewish lens; others may have Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Wiccan lenses through which they seek a clear view of that which gives human existence meaning. As we go through life, I think these “lenses” can get smudged by the day-to-day crud we encounter: cynicism, disappointment, a painful news story, casual unkindness. Eventually, that crud will distort the picture we see of the universe and our place in it.
For Jews, the month of Elul is a time to prepare for the fresh start of the New Year and the Day of Atonement. Just as we might wipe off our eyeglasses before we expect to see a particularly important or beautiful sight, we ought to take time to ensure that there is nothing gunking up our spiritual lenses and preventing the clearest possible view of the supernal light.
#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.