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Soul Accounting

We are now entering the final week of the final month of the year--Elul. The custom in Jewish communities is that, starting on Saturday night the week before Rosh Hashahah, we wake up early for selichot--prayers of entreaty and mercy.

The selichot prayers are a time to ask G-d forgiveness for our misdeeds over the past year. The yetzer hara, the evil inclination, seeks to entrap us at every step. At the end of the year we make an accounting of our successes versus our failures. How often did we succeed in overcoming our inclination, and how often did we fall prey to its enticements?

We must make note of our successes in order to assure ourselves that we are capable of improvement. At the same time, though, we must also add up our failures, to acknowledge those areas within ourselves that need to be strengthened.

And all of us have weaknesses, even those who are extremely exacting with themselves. As the verse states, "There is no tzadik on earth who does only good and never sins." Therefore, all of us recite selichot. We tell the Creator: We have made an honest soul accounting. We have acknowledged our failings and request forgiveness. We accept upon ourselves to ensure that these misdeeds do not happen again.


When making this soul accounting, the most important thing to keep in mind is the final goal. When the goal is not clearly defined, one can mistake successes for failures, and vice versa. When playing chess, for example, if one doesn't know the point of the game, one can lose the king and still think that he won the game, since he captured more of the opponent's pieces.

In the game of life, the king, naturally, is G-d. Despite the fact that we can neither see nor hear Him, G-d anticipates that we will follow His directives and conduct our lives according to His will, as expressed in Torah. Every time the evil inclination entices us to do something opposed to G-d's will and we overcome that pull, we cause great pride and satisfaction to G-d. Such satisfaction brings us closer to the goal: the time when the King will reveal Himself to us, during the complete and final Redemption.

A victory over the evil inclination is in proportion to the person's usual spiritual stature. For example, if one person resists entering a non-kosher restaurant despite the delectable smells emanating from within, that might cause greater joy to G-d than someone else who studies Torah all day merely out of habit. One who fights and resists the evil inclination brings more satisfaction to G-d than one who merely follows the status quo.


The conclusion of our soul accounting leads us to one cry from the heart: How much longer? How much longer will our King remain hidden? From our part, we have put forth so much effort, and we can no longer remain in exile. We want to see our King!

 The great quantity of mitzvot that have accumulated over the generations should surely be enough to tip the balance over all our iniquities. We have already asked forgiveness for our sins and it surely has been granted. Therefore, with a clean slate, we ask G-d to consider all our merits and reveal the Moshiach, to bring about the true and complete Redemption.


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