The days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur are known as The Ten Days of Repentance. The preceding month of Elul is a time traditionally set aside to prepare for this period. At first glance, taking 30 days to get ready to say that we’re sorry for our sins might seem a bit extreme. But in light of the deep-seated tendency to shift the blame away from ourselves, we can understand the wisdom of it. It takes a lot of throat-clearing before we can bring ourselves to say, “I have sinned.”
How, specifically, can we take advantage of the month of Elul? The first step is not to begin making a list of everything you have done wrong during the past year. That way may lead to depression rather than repentance. In Hebrew, the letters E-L-U-L stand for ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am unto my Beloved and He is unto me. This means that God and HIs people exist in a relationship of mutual love. And that love is eternal, spanning the ages.
No matter how much we have sinned, we remain the objects of God’s love. Therefore, there is no need to shift the blame for fear of rejection. On the contrary, God only wants us to face up to our wrongdoing in order to become better people, even more worthy of His love.
After those thoughts have begun to sink in, we can actually begin to reflect on what we would rather not have done or said during the course of the year. But it is advisable to keep the list short. For if our repentance is to be credible, we have to stand a realistic chance of making good on our promises to do better next year. The shorter the list, the more the odds are in our favor.