(light a single candle at the beginning of the service)
Behold the burning candle! Its flame flickers when a breeze passes by. The flame dances about, delighting our eyes. But sometimes there is no breeze; sometimes the air is still and we watch in anticipation of its movement. We sit idly by, staring, hoping a breeze will come and cause the candle’s flame to dance. How are we spending our time? Is our flame dancing, or do we wait and watch, idly passing time, until the next breeze comes along? … The time of the flame is not infinite. Whether she dances or sits still, she continues to burn. And so it is with life; whether we dance or sit the dance out, time continues to pass.
Time flies, or so some say. Another Jewish year has nearly gone by. We can rationalize that the rate of time does not change, but our perception of time changes. If we dance, if we are busy as bees, juggling a myriad of activities, time seems to passquicker. If we have little to do, if we sit the dance out, we say we have time on our hands. Knowing that most of us ARE busy as bees, the High Holy Days will be here before we know it; perhaps before we’re truly ready for them. We need to take time, to properly prepare for the coming days, known as Yamim Nora'im, the Awesome Days; and to prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgement ..... G-d's judgement of us. We need to look back upon the past year and reflect in order to properly prepare.
Reflection takes time and patience, thinking not only about our past deeds, but the feelings they invoke within us. As difficult as it may be, we should reflect upon how we have hurt ourselves and how we have hurt others. If our wrongdoings do not bother us, because we simply don't care, we will probably spend little or no time reflecting upon that which is literally tearing us up. We can choose to maintain our foolish pride, our stubborn ways. We can continue to harbor the pent up negative feelings. It is not an easy task to confront our demons. But neglecting to give thought to the hurt we have given, or received, would be such a shame, for the negative energy does not go away; it becomes buried within us and subconsciously churns away inside. It needs to be released to make us as healthy as possible. It is nevertoo late to say “I’m sorry” and atone for a regretful act. It is never too late to let go of that which we cannot control, perhaps someone who has wronged us and doesn’t care. We can forgive them in our hearts, in our minds, even if they do not own up to their sin or say that they are sorry too. We can release that negative energy. We don't have to sleep in the bed we made; we can act righteously, we can rectify situations, and we can then go to bed happier and healthier.
The more goodness we reflect upon, the more we strengthen our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. We derive great pleasure from this, and develop a greater inner fortitude to make necessary our needed changes. We should reflect deeply upon quality time spent with family and friends; all of the special occasions, and the just-for-the-fun-of-it times together that we might otherwise take for granted. We should reflect deeply on moments alone that gave us pleasure; reading a book, playing music, observing nature. We should reflect deeply on time spent helping others and time spent on self improvement; did we volunteer somewhere, did we take a class, did we do a random act of kindness?
Let us take time now ...... Watch the candle burn, meditate, or close your eyes ........ Ask yourself .........
"What did I accomplish this year?" .... ask yourself ... "What gave me the most joy?" ..... Have there been any positive changes in my behavior? .........
Who have I let down or offended? ...... What makes me angry? ...... Is there something I need to do to make my life better?(sit in silence)
A year’s reflection cannot happen in this brief moment. True reflection takes time, and taking time to ponder is a unique gift that we have been given. From the onset of our Torah, G-d gave humans that unique awareness. So it is, as it concerns us and the world around us, that we traditionally and deliberately take time to assess where we have been and where we are going. Time remains between now and the end of Yom Kippur; 14 days to be exact. Let us continue to give serious consideration, and take action, in words and deeds, to resolve our unresolved issues.
We blow the shofar during this month of Elul as a reminder that the High Holy Days are approaching. All the while time passes and our inner candle continues to burn. Don't let the candle burn while sitting idly by; let its flame dance with thoughts of reflection. Let its flame dance with acts of forgiveness and loving kindness. May we be blessed with a worthwhile reflection. May we be blessed with beneficial insights. May this coming year be one of good health, happiness, prosperity and great peace.
Let us say ... Amen