Here on day 7 we are now a full week into Elul. The entire theme of the month is honest (and sometimes brutal) reflection on both our intention and our outcomes over the past year, and using what we learn to help shape our plan for the coming year.
To put it in terms any monitoring engineer will appreciate: there can be no meaningful action without understanding; no understanding without data; and no data without observation.
And yet, in both our technical lives and our religious ones, we often leap to the step of trying to understand. We don’t take a moment to first ask ourselves if we have a complete data set. Having only partial data, we end up with incomplete understanding. Having not fully understood our motivations and results, we create imperfect plans. With an imperfect plan, we get flawed results.
Which is, at it’s heart, why we spend a full month on analysis. Why we change our perspective by shaking ourselves awake (both physically and, we hope, spiritually) while it’s still dark outside and gathering in a communal experience to say “selichot” (I’m sorry). NOT because we have necessarily identified something we did wrong that requires atonement, but because the very act of saying “I’m sorry” causes us to question what we may have done wrong. It pushes us back again into analysis mode. To roll back the tape of the year and try to suss out if we got off track, and if so, exactly when and where that divergence occurred.