If you go on YouTube, and search back to school commercials, you can find a humorous one where the guy is dancing down the aisles of the store, grabbing pencils, notebooks, highlighters, you name it and gleefully tossing the items into the shopping cart. His children walk very slowly behind, with pouts and puppy dog eyes. The soundtrack that accompanies this scene is a familiar song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

And, it is. As the unscheduled, haphazard days of summer slip away, and, bedtimes, wake up times and the battle cry of all parents “You’re gonna be late!” fill our homes. On some level I can totally relate to that guy delirious with happiness.

After all, this is a very special time of year.

Instead of rejoicing in the return to schedules and normalcy, there is something else in the air. More palpable. More exciting.

It’s Elul.

It’s a special chance to evaluate ourselves. The world is beginning anew. We are beginning anew.

Where was I holding last year? What are my goals for this year?

I have gotten-and given-myself different opportunities over this past year to go out of my comfort zone. As a result, I have had disappointments. I have had successes. Hopefully we all have.

But, regardless of the events of the past year. Elul is a chance to ask ourselves a most basic question. “Are we going in the direction that we want to be? Have we improved ourselves? And, most importantly, what do I want to do and be this year?”

People sometimes reserve this question and self-reflection for those “more inspired moments” in life. When we feel buoyed by events. Kind of like a spiritual/energetic momentum that propels us to believe that anything is possible. Those moments are great. After all, it feels wonderful to know there is the promise of new beginnings in the air. It’s almost like the possibilities are just waiting for us to grab them.

But, like any change, whether deep or superficial, people can get discouraged.

Then, we get stuck. In a big rut. Picture tires spinning in the mud. No traction anywhere.

Just like those wheels that aren’t getting you anywhere, we tell ourselves that things can’t change, we can’t change. Continuing on this rationale, we convince ourselves some more, “After all, this is the way my life has been for the past several years, months, days (take your pick)”.

But, the secret, and, the blessing of Elul is this: The world is beginning anew. As we celebrate another year of creation, as we remember and reflect on how Hashem created the water, the land, plants, animals and then people, we are all going through that process again.

And, just like those first early days of the world. We are again in those first early days. And, we don’t need to be who/where we were last year. We can change. We can work on recreating ourselves.

So, yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year.