My family and I live in a 4th floor condominium in a 100-year-old building with large, beautiful windows. Window washing happens only once every few years, as it requires the window washer to suspend from a rope while they wash the windows from the outside. When the window washing project for this summer was announced, I found myself feeling less than enthusiastic about the prospect. I have not been particularly bothered by dirt on the windows, and the project is time consuming. To prepare for window washing, we have to remove all of the storm windows and screens from our 16 windows, while assuring that our cats are safely out of harm’s way while we open the windows. In addition, the condition of the wood frames makes some of the the windows difficult to open and close.
I am in the midst of doing my piece of the window washing project— washing all of the storm windows that have been removed as well as the inside of each main window. A company has been hired for the outside washing. As I started washing windows, armed with my squeegee and spray bottle of white vinegar solution, I discovered a joy in removing the splotches and streaks and spots that I had barely noticed before. I also learned to accept that some spots are not going to come off or are not worth my effort.
I started reflecting on this project as a potent metaphor for the inner work of this season in the Jewish calendar. We humans have a tendency to resist washing our inner windows and we may have come to accept the “dirt” on the windows as normal and acceptable. The month of Elul, which we being today (August 12, 2018), invites us into an examination of where we need to do some “washing” and realigning of our habits and relationships and middot (character traits). Just as with window washing, the goal is not to become perfectly “clean”, but rather to remove layers that allow more light and beauty to shine through.