So, I have been promising you that I would say something about the Hebrew month of Elul, which we are well into at this point (the 28th). Elul is, for the practicing Jew, a time for reflection on his or her thoughts, actions, attitudes, especially those which indicate moral failing, of the previous year. The month leads up to the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). During the 10 day period that starts with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur Jews search their souls, repent for their wrongdoing, are judged by God, and their fate is sealed. Mike isn’t so sure about the last part. There can be no question of God’s forgiveness if one is sincere in his repentance. In order to get the most benefit out of these 10 days of repentance one needs to prepare. An inventory needs to be taken of one’s life’s activities, good and not so good, over the previous year. This should be going on every day, and for some people I believe it does. But a heightened awareness starts with the inventory taking in Elul. There are necessary ingredients to such an inventory. It has to start with honesty, leads to God-awareness, continues to the making of amends where necessary, and progresses to a resolution, with God’s help, to do better in the coming year. A Hebrew word that is used in reference to the activities of this process is teshuva. This is best translated as “return”, and refers both to returning to God, and doing His will, as well as returning to oneself, focusing on being the best and most honest self that one can be in that moment. Much is made in religion of sinfulness. Too much, in my opinion. I don’t disagree at all with the value of self-honesty, of spiritual awareness, having a compassionate code of ethics, and of trying to be the best person you can be. I just think that God made people the way they are, not perfect, and that it is their job to grapple with their imperfections to the honest best of their ability, with God’s help. So, imperfection is part of God’s plan. The writer of the creation myth in the first chapter of Genesis says that God looked at what he made , and it was very good. Not perfect, but very good. Of course, cats don’t have to invest much energy into this inventory taking or repenting business. We also act according to God’s plan, but since we don’t act against our nature, we always do God’s will. What keeps us as dialed in as we are to the spiritual side of things is the many hours we spend in meditation every day.
Mike was pulled over by an Atlanta police officer the other day. This was the first and only time in the 34 years he has lived in Georgia that he came under the scrutiny of the gendarmes. He and Judy had just left from visiting Michelle, who now lives in an area of Atlanta that Mike is not so familiar with. He was exiting the highway, and turned right at a “No turn on red” traffic light. He never saw the sign. Apparently, there were no outstanding warrants because after a driver’s license check he was let go with a polite warning. Truthfully, I think that in everyone’s self-examination they could look at their driving habits. There is entirely too much inattentive and fast driving. No doubt you recall that my little buddy Snowball was run over and killed not that long ago. ( Not so Loud, Just about Right, March 25, 2018 ). Of course, he shouldn’t have been napping in a sunny spot in the middle of Meadows Trace, but that really is the point. Drivers need to expect the unexpected.
One area of life in which Mike is trying to improve is his food choices. Earlier this year he decided to lose 20 pounds. He has been well aware that he could be healthier, but he could not commit to changing his eating habits. Happily, he is now half-way to his goal. But, there has been backsliding. He frequently goes to lunch with colleagues, and they like this Mexican restaurant down the street from his office. The service is fast, the people are nice, and the food is tasty and affordable. And best of all, Mike can get salsa and entrees that are not crawling with cilantro. Now, it is a well-known fact that certain foods can lead to unpleasantness down the road, so to speak. Beans, a staple of the Mexican palate, are notorious for causing flatulence. (Farting is hardly sinful, or a sign of imperfection, as it is a result a of natural biological process. Even so, you will hardly ever catch a cat letting one go. Our reputation along these lines is deservedly sterling. The main culprits are dogs, and the human male.) So, I was up in Mike and Judy’s bedroom the other night when there was this hissing noise followed moments later by the worst imaginable odor. Judy groaned in her sleep. Mike got up and went to the bathroom, not coming out for a while. I didn’t stick around for an encore, but I guess that was about that for the dramatic events. The next morning Judy and Mike were in the kitchen and I overheard them talking.
Judy said, “Did I dream it last night, or did you pass terrible gas?”
“No dream,” Mike replied. “That was the real deal.”
“What did you eat yesterday?” she asked.
Mike thought for a moment. “It must have been the refried beans,” he said. “It was a horrible smell. I’m sorry.” (I should have mentioned before that in the Jewish religion you don’t get to ask God’s forgiveness until you have made amends to the person you have offended.)
Judy responded, “I almost got up and left the room, it was so bad. It was a complex aroma. Along with the dreadful smell of deadly bowel gas, there were notes of blueberry and oak, with a copper finish.”
You know, she was right. For a person, she has a discerning nose. And I don’t think we need to worry about Mike ordering refried beans again, at least not for a while. Well, I will leave you with that progress report. If more happens in Happy Meadows I will be sure to let you all know. Happy New Year. Have a great 5779!