Elul sure did come in with a bang last week. But I haven't yet been successful with my plans to do the daily exercises in 60 Days, as I did last year. I'm trying, but have been temporarily defeated by an inability to concentrate (for good reasons). I haven't given up, since I know that Elul will not wait; I need to catch up. I got a reminder of this last night, in fact, just in case I happened to forget.
I was sitting at my desk, cranking on all my deadlines, when suddenly—the sky fell. Or so it seemed... a big, heavy piece of it whooshed past my right ear, knocked off my glasses, and landed at my feet. I was frozen for a few seconds, unable make sense of what happened. All I could think to do was get down on my hands and knees and reach around to find my glasses, since the world was now a big blur. I finally tracked them down on the other side of the room, completely bent out of shape.
Only then, crawling across the floor, did I begin to understand what happened. Over my desk, near the ceiling and about 7 feet up, is a big, ugly Con Ed meter camouflaged by an even bigger, heavier wooden box about 3 feet long by 1 foot deep. It's been wedged into the space between the door frame and the ceiling for a few decades, I'm guessing. The meter reader guys lift it up and then shove it back in place without fanfare each month in order to calculate the bill.
Last night, for the first time in its long and uneventful life, the box decided to fall off the wall and right on top of me. My glasses, thankfully, suffered the full force of velocity--had I been wearing my contact lenses instead, the broken and twisted parts might have been my teeth, skull, or eye.
I'm still shaken up, but fine physically—just a little bump on my right temple and scratch above my eye. (I'll know this afternoon if I need to say Kaddish for the glasses.) To say I feel lucky is the world's greatest understatement. But I also think that assault by a falling piece of wall is no different than any other trial, whether it be contracting an illness or losing a love. Or even much different than the good, random things—matching with a stranger to become a bone marrow donor, for example. There are no miracles or punishments; it's all life, one big soup of events that happen, or not. We can control only some of them but, to some degree, can control our reaction to all of them, and that's where I think Elul comes in. Once a year we join with our community to contemplate the spilled soup, and try to clean up the mess. And then we can start all over again with a clean table.