At some point every Elul, it’s time to look in the mirror. Look at the face that looks back at you. What do you see?
Do you see a person
– who needs sleep?
– who needs to see a doctor?
– who drinks too much?
– who eats unhealthfully?
– who is too tired to know what she needs?
– who is depressed?
– who needs regular exercise and doesn’t get it?
– who hasn’t laughed in HOW long?
– who is secretly struggling with something he hopes no one else will notice?
– who needs help and won’t ask for it?
– who has been offered help but refuses to accept it?
– who is lonely?
– who is frightened about something?
– who hasn’t had a day off in HOW long?
Modern secular culture encourages us not to take care of ourselves. We see advertisements for unhealthy foods, for “fun” gambling, for TV shows that are on late at night. We get caught up in the push for certain kinds of success. With our families scattered all over the country or the world, care for children or elders often falls on one or two family members, who get no help or relief. We avoid admitting to depression, mental illness, disabilities, because of the stigma they carry. We avoid asking for help because that would involve admitting that we need it.
These are sins against ourselves. When we fail to get enough sleep, good food, and enough exercise, we forget that our bodies are limited, that we are setting ourselves up for illness. When we fail to ask for or accept help, not only do we hurt ourselves, but we keep others from having the opportunity to do a mitzvah.
Ask: What could I change in my life so that I could get enough sleep? Help taking care of my aged parents? Help doing whatever it is I need to do to take care of myself?
Then make a plan. Do it.
If the answer to that question is, “Nothing,” or “I don’t know” then make an appointment to talk with someone who can help you find options: a rabbi, a therapist, a counselor, a friend. Admit how hard it’s all gotten to someone who won’t tell on you. Ask them to help you find some ways to lighten the burden. Those ways exist, whether you can see them or not.
Make the call. Do it.
For sins against God, the Day of Atonement atones, but for sins against human beings the Day of Atonement does not atone: those include the sins against ourselves.
Someone is waiting for you, and for me, in the mirror.