Collection Buckets & Real Teshuva
I was exhausted yesterday morning even before I began my walk. I dragged my legs into the park and slowly began the first lap. I must have groaned aloud because my sneakers started yelling at me: “You’re complaining! We walk every inch with you. In fact, we carry you and even cushion your steps at our expense. We are the ones who step on the harsh gravel, garbage, wet puddles, dead bugs and who knows what else, and you’re complaining! Do you have any idea how many miles we have carried your massive weight?”
How embarrassing! I like my sneakers, but I must admit that I never considered how hard they worked.
Well, it’s the time of year when we make amends, so I began to calculate how many miles my sneakers have worked for me. There is the minimum of three miles each day walking laps, all the treadmill miles, and then all the hours in the gym and physical therapy. I quickly filled one bucket after another with my sneakers’ work. There were far too many buckets to carry.
I decided to change my approach and I began to describe the broader accomplishments that could be credited to my sneakers. When Debbie bought them for me, I could only walk ten steps with a walker. I was taking more than fifty pills each day. I weighed 40 pounds more than my current, slim and svelte, weight. I had to relearn how to use my arms, legs, fingers and neck.
I asked my sneakers: “Do you see how much you have accomplished for me? Do you really prefer that I count each step you have taken and measure your work by how many buckets of inches, feet or miles you have walked? Consider instead the broader picture. My debt cannot be measured in miles walked. I am a new man.”
I thought it was a pretty good speech and smugly waited for my sneakers’ emotional thank you.
Their response was not what I expected: “Look who is talking! We hear you review your year with the bucket system. You calculate how many Mitzvot you did, how many mistakes you made (a lot of buckets), how many pages of Talmud you studied, how many classes you gave, and you even have a bucket to count how many of these silly blogs you’ve written. You are approaching Rosh Hashana with all those buckets so you can count everything like a bookkeeper rather than measure your accomplishments. You stop with the measurements and so will we.”
They were right. Wherever I go I see people carrying buckets filled with good deeds and bad. People come to synagogue on Rosh Hashana with all their buckets hoping that the ultimate bookkeeper, the Judge of Judges, God, will find more good deeds than bad.
I have even witnessed people desperately trying to fill their good buckets with all sorts of good deeds, learning and prayers so they will outweigh the bad buckets.
Do we really think that God is a bookkeeper?
I listened to my sneakers and changed my approach:
We had a Cheshbon Hashana barbeque last night with our nearest and dearest. Each one of us presented a description of how we grew over the past year. We listed our accomplishments, changes, and spiritual developments, and then described how we measured ourselves as compared to last year just before Rosh Hashana.
We love each other and everyone contributed to everyone else’s list. Everyone rejoiced in everyone else’s growth. We were truly happy for each other. We celebrated each Cheshbon – let’s call it ‘self-evaluation’ – with a L’chaim of suggestion how each could use his or her growth to have an even more productive year and how to include all of the above in our Rosh Hashana prayers.
I gotta tell you that this approach is more exciting, fulfilling, and attractive than the buckets. I put all my buckets away, and my sneakers were truly happy to see me this morning.
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