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The real self is pure, wholesome, and even holy. The real self would therefore never do anything to hurt anyone. The superficial self, on the other hand, can act apathetically, egotistically, and cruelly.

Rabbi Allouche

Imagine this:

You behaved nastily to a friend. You hurt his or her feelings, and you now feel terrible about it. So, you ask for forgiveness and you say: “I am so sorry about what happened. I really don’t know what came over me. I just wasn’t myself…”

Your loved one forgives you, and even expresses sympathy and understanding, and life moves on.

In our friction-prone society, these scenarios happen all the time. But what does it mean that “I was not myself”? Are we schizophrenic? Do we live a dual life?

The answer is painfully simple: There is a real self, and there is a superficial self. The real self is pure, wholesome, and even holy. The real self would therefore never do anything to hurt anyone.

The superficial self, on the other hand, can act apathetically, egotistically, and cruelly.

So why do we sometimes allow the superficial self to demonstrate itself? Why do we allow it to eclipse the pure goodness within each of us?

Perhaps, it is because we sometimes cease to view ourselves as essentially good beings, created in the image of G-d, who are charged with a mission to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly in the ways of G-d” (Micah, 6:8). We then forget that real Divine self of ours and we fall into all sorts of compromised views of who we are and who we ought to be.

This is why the Jewish calendar has times like these. Tonight, tomorrow and on Sunday, we will usher in the Hebrew month of Elul, in which we prepare ourselves for the New Year and the high-holidays with much self-reflection and introspection. But it is also a month, in which G-d gives us the opportunity to jump-start our relationships with G-d and our loved ones and re-ignite the passion, love, and commitment toward our mission to serve as G-d’s agents of goodness in this chaotic world.

Here’s how great the Chassidic master, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi of the 18th Century, put it:

“During this month, the king comes out of his palace to the fields of his city. There, everyone who so desires is permitted to meet him; he receives them all with a cheerful countenance and shows a smiling face to them all. Later, however, after he enters his royal palace. None can enter into his presence except by appointment, and only special people and select individuals. So, too, by analogy, the month of Elul is when we meet God in the field…”
– Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b

Indeed, during this special month, our Divine King re-appears. He visits us in the city’s fields, but he also emerges from within, in our inner fields, deep within the chambers of our soul. And He waits for us to meet Him and heed His call to persist through our tribulations, and actualize our very best, Divine selves, at every moment of the day.

This encounter with our King yes may turn out to be the most rewarding moment in our lives.