Our family spent Labor Day at the Santa Monica beach, teaching our children to boogie board and build sand castles. A man sat in the car next to us as we arrived, filming a documentary. Out of curiosity, I asked him what he was filming. He handed me his card, and announced he was the proud founder of Zero Debris, an organization that cleans the Santa Monica Beach and other bodies of water around the world. He then continued, “I soon realized after I started to clean the debris on the beach that I also have debris in my soul. Little did he know, he was speaking to a Rabbi on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day where we sounded the shofar, announcing that we must clear the debris of our soul.
In some communities, Selichot, penitential prayers, are recited the entire month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Bernard Casper taught, “The authors of these prayers wrote with humility, conscious of their own personal shortcomings, but with unquenchable hope in the Redeemer of Israel.” It is easy to look in the mirror and see the debris. It is more difficult to rid of it. The time is now. The sound of the shofar has sounded. Let’s clean up.