If there’s one thing the process of writing these entries and reflecting upon my actions over the course of Elul has taught me, it’s that there is a great deal of truth to the way Judaism views good and evil, as an intrinsic part of human nature. The yetzer hara is not demonic in nature, there’s no concept of Satan leading us astray. When you remove that external agent and instead focus inwards, you begin to see yourself in a different light. You’re not blameless for the wrong you do to others and for the bad choices you make – you are responsible, accountable. If we can balance out the darker aspects of our personalities and behaviors with the good, then we are reasserting our control and enabling ourselves to make good, healthy, healing, whole choices.
I can’t quite articulate how this makes me feel, but at the very least, I find it quite empowering. Especially at the end of Elul where, if you’ve done it properly, you might well be feeling kind of down about yourself in general, it’s nice to have the reminder that we have agency when it comes to sin. If we have chosen to do wrong, or cause hurt, we have the power to right these wrongs and learn from our mistakes and do better in the coming year. I am responsible for me, for my actions, for my behaviors, for my words, for my choices. I have the power to decide to make bad choices, but I also have the power to counteract the bad with the good. I can do it.