How many college students can fit into a tiny car or phone booth? How many absolute essentials can a woman place in her evening bag? How many items can a man stuff into his suit pocket and still have the jacket lay properly? How many grapes can a youngster pack into his mouth before they come tumbling out?
Sand patted down by a child in a pail, and patted down yet again to make room for more; a suitcase so full that you have to sit on it to close it; just one more bite, we promise ourselves as we dig once again into the double chocolate fudge brownies, though we’re already stuffed to the gills.
People seem to be obsessed with cramming as many things as possible into a minimal amount of space. From closet organizers to USBs, we want to make full use of space, both tangible and cyber.
There are times in the calendar when we are given a specific amount of “spiritual space” and encouraged to fill it up.
The month of Elul, which will begin this Thursday, is just such a time. Elul is the round-up time for the previous year. It is the “inventory” season, “year-end accounting” time and the moment when each person writes and reads to themselves their own “State of the Union” address.
In addition to Elul being a once-over concerning the past, it is a chance to focus on the future, an opportunity to plan ahead armed with the wisdom gained from experience. The next 30 days gives us the chance to concentrate on how we will do things differently in the upcoming year.
But there is a third aspect to Elul, as well. While we’re remembering the past and considering the future, we are still living in the present. And in this present, we are invited to use the entire month of Elul to fill up our spiritual space with as many mitzvos (commandments) as we can. We are encouraged to add more mitzvos to our repertoire and to enhance the manner in which we already perform them.
In Elul, we are urged specifically to give extra charity; to spend more time connecting with G-d through prayer; to have our mezuzos and tefilin checked by an expert scribe (and to put mezuzos on those doorways which might yet need them); to observe the laws of kashrus more carefully; to bless our friends, neighbors and relatives with a good, sweet year.
Using the spiritual space we’re given during Elul to its fullest capacity can only be to our benefit for the coming year.
May we merit the ultimate redemption with Moshiach NOW!