The Hebrew month before the Jewish New Year is called Elul. This month is the time to get spiritually ready to face the new year. It is time to take inventory of my past year. What have I done that missed the mark? What did I do that I am proud of? How could I have done things differently?

Very deep questions. In reviewing this list, I see that there were times when I didn’t extend a hand or friendly word when I could have. I didn’t try a little harder to be there for my fellow travelers through their life journeys. I could have done more. But, when – all of us – when can we do less? We can’t. So, although I am guilty of not doing enough, I must also look at what I did. There are definitely times when I am proud of what I did do.

This past year was definitely hard. I lost my mom 11 months ago. Although we were never close, I have found that there are times when I thought of calling her just to talk. I have tried to reach out to my father a bit more often than I used to. I know that he will not be there forever, but it is still not always easy to pick up the phone and call. I used to be better at reaching out, but that was through email. He doesn’t read his email any more. I wish he did.

Have I been a good friend? I think I can check this off my list as a having done a pretty good job. Could I have done more? Of course.

Have I been a good parent? Well, my family is all grown. I could have been better at staying in touch more often. They know that they can call on me and I will be there for them.

What about my neighbors? I have reached out to new neighbors trying to help them get acquainted with life in our neighborhood. I want them to feel welcome, something that was not done for us when we moved in. I know how important it is to know who lives next door. The Torah teaches that we should welcome the stranger, for we were once strangers in the land. I hope they feel welcome.

In my pastoral role, was I there for those in their time of need? Again, I was there, but I am sure I could have done more.

You probably guessed that I am not just sharing this with you so that you can see how I did. I am sharing this because I think all of us can take the time to review our past year. Some of you may do this before the beginning of the secular new year or at your birthday. If you haven’t gone through this exercise recently, give it a try. You may surprise yourself. You may have really hit the mark. But, if during this exercise, you discover that you missed the mark, it will give you the opportunity to do better.

We all have the potential to be the best we can be. If you don’t know where you were, how will you know where you can go. Dr. Seuss said “Oh the places you’ll go.” Go with a good heart, an open hand, and kindness towards others and yourself.

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