We learn in Midrash Genesis Rabbah (12:15) that there was a king who had some empty glasses. The king wondered: “If I pour hot water into them, they will burst; if, however, I pour cold water, they will contract and shatter.” What then did the king do? He poured in a mixture of hot and cold water so the glasses would remain whole. At the time of creation, God reflected; "If I create the world on the basis of mercy alone, its sins will be oppressive; if on the basis of judgment alone, how would the world be able to exist? I will create it with justice and mercy together and then it will be able to stand!"
In this month of Elul we find ourselves reviewing our own journeys and our relationships with others. We reflect on how we could improve the way we consider others, as well as how we see ourselves.
Are we able to find the appropriate balance between judgement and mercy, so that just as God had reflected in the Midrash when creating the world, we too can reflect and focus on applying judgement and mercy fairly in our dealings with others?
If we want others to treat us fairly, perhaps we could take the time to consider our views on them, and by the same token, how we view ourselves. Are we fair when we assess ourselves? Could we be less hasty when scrutinising our own journey?
Tradition teaches us that Rosh HaShanah commemorates the creation of the world. As we journey through the month of Elul, towards this celebration, seeking to improve who we are and why we are, perhaps we too can adopt the approach described in the Midrash of being created with justice and mercy together.
After all, we learn that we are created in the divine image. Just as God reflected, let us take the time to reflect as well.
-- Reverend Sam Zwarenstein, Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra