Elul Reflections: 13 Elul 5779

Everyone must have two pockets,  “In the right pocket are to be the words: “For my sake was the world created,” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5) And in the left: “I am but dust and ashes.” (Genesis 18:27)) so that he can reach into his pockets, according to his needs.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Przysucha’s teaching lays bare one of the great paradoxes of humanity – we are indeed creatures of blood and bone, biologically similar to each other and to many other creatures, and yet, createdb’tzelem Elohim,we are each the crown of Creation, created in the image of God. The challenge for us then, is to balance these two extremes by finding some sort of mean.

Rabbi Bunim’s teaching can be used as guide in the process of cheshbon nefesh, the examination of our souls that we engage in over the next few weeks. Based on his teaching, we can ask ourselves

The word was created for my sake . . . but 

  • Have I been selfish? Arrogant?
  • Have I been grateful to the Creator for the gift of my place in this world?
  • Have I fulfilled my potential and used my abilities in the best way to create a better world?

I am nothing but dust and ashes . . . so

  • Have I used my “worthlessness” as an excuse to not speak up or act?
  • Have I truly been humble and “made room” for other people’s desires and ideas?
  • Have I used my limited time wisely?

In our journey toward balance and wholeness we carry with us all we need, if we just reach into our pockets.

-- Rabbi Martha Bergadine, United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong

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