My chevrusa RWAC has a post called Elul: Doubting myself that caught my eye. Here is an excerpt that reeled me in:
In short: I do things that make my halakhic mind cringe. I do them for the sake of Torah and in a manner that conforms with my understanding of the halachah, but come Elul, they still bother me.
Elul is, after all, the period for second-guessing. For asking myself whether this action was correct, whether I should have said that differently. For debating the decisions that have brought me to this point in life.
So during Elul I look at these cases and ask myself: When I do these things, am I really motivated by ahavas yisrael and outreach, or am I doing it because I want people to like me?
It held my attention for many reasons. I find Elul to be unsettling. I am not Orthodox, but I don’t think that you have to be Orthodox to find Elul to be unsettling. For that matter you don’t have to be Orthodox to have an educated opinion about halacha or any Jewish matter. This is a position that is not popular with many people, but it is one that I am comfortable with.
The core of the issue for me is education. Are you familiar with the guidelines and reasons behind the various halacha and minhagim. Are you observant because you were raised that way or because you choose to be. I don’t believe in G-d based upon logic, although that plays a role. I believe based in part because of faith. Faith doesn’t require that 2+2 equal four. Although it would be nice that did.
I don’t believe that mixed dancing should be frowned upon. I don’t accept the minhagim that require my friends to wear a wool suit on a day in which the temperature exceeds 106. There are aspects of this that make sense to me. I appreciate the guidelines of being tznius, but to me they are just guidelines. I just don’t believe that Chazal was trying to guide us to becoming shomer negia in the current fashion.
Granted there are going to be people who show me a gemara that says otherwise. Granted there is a reason why tradition shouldn’t be completely ignored or abused. Yet it shouldn’t always be taken as law just because that is the way it has always been done.
There are moments in which I have serious doubts about how I have done things. Moments in which I wonder if I have made the right choices. I second guess myself, but I also move on. I don’t spend a ton of time wondering about every decision I have made.
Ani maamin with all of my heart and soul that Hashem is not locked into one way. I do not now and cannot remember a time in which I believed that there is only one way to be Jewish. Just to be clear for my resident J4J- there are lines which you cannot cross and be considered Jewish. Some things are impossible, like being partially pregnant. Outside of those black and white lines, there is a lot of gray.
Even though I find Elul to be unsettling I appreciate it for what it offers. Specific time to reflect upon my life, who I am, who I want to be, the year that was and the year to come.