She flicked on the light switch, peered around and fumed. An innocent 2:00 am shuffle to the kitchen for a quick cup of water had turned into a minor nightmare and major gripe grist. Why was the stovetop she’d scrubbed that evening to a spotless sheen, now streaked with flecks of grease and cooking residue? Why were her bleached-white sinks now grey and grimy? And why did the floor she’d mopped to sparkling with her last strength before collapsing into bed now have little dirt piles in the corners?!
It was him! Her husband had obviously made himself a midnight snack and trashed her kitchen. He knew dirt bothered her. Couldn’t he have at least cleaned up after himself?
The next morning they were the first words out of her mouth. “You spent quite some time in the kitchen last night, didn’t you?”
She’d waited for a cringe, or at least a defensive snarl – she didn’t expect the bright-eyed grin.
“Hey, you noticed!” he said. “Makes it nicer, doesn’t it?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Replacing those dull incandescent bulbs we had in there with a high-lumen LED’s. What else?”…
I never understood why every Elul, the Jewish month when we are supposed to feel extra close to God and be on our best behavior, was when I always seemed to have a spiritual meltdown. I’d think things, say things, and do things that during the rest of the year were, well, just beneath me.
Then I figured it out.
What is being close to God? I mean, He’s everywhere, right? So it can’t mean physical closeness.
What it means is that during Elul we’re more open to, and in touch with that higher, spiritual part of ourselves that consciously connects us with God. During Elul, God lets more of His light shine into the world and into our lives.
Only thing is, that while the ‘light’s turned up’, I can suddenly see all those little (and not so little) smudges, blotches and character cobwebs within me, that in the relative dimness of the rest of the year, just don’t show up on the radar screen.
It’s not pretty; but it’s an opportunity. Because I can’t clean what I can’t see, and it is exactly those spiritual splotches that get in the way of my heart’s desire – and the greatest source of soul-pleasure – to be clean with God, clean with myself, and clean with my fellow human beings.
So, ‘let the light shine in’, and let us clean our kitchens, while we can.
(Message in a bottle, for those who find metaphor a bore: Elul’s a time of increased spiritual light that lets us see more clearly where we need to grow.)