It was Erev Shabbos, and I was trying to ignore the floor.

There were plenty other things to do, and I set to work intently bustling about doing them, but it was no use. That floor was still always somewhere in my field of view, niggling at me.

I sat down and looked at it. I did not like what I saw.

Shoddy workmanship! My husband had done me the chesed, as usual, of cleaning the floor Erev Shabbos while I conserved my strength and endured a particularly fatiguing pregnancy.

Shoddy workmanship. How could I not think that? It was dull and patchy. This would cause negative feelings against my husband for the rest of the day. Perhaps something would trigger me to lose my cool and start a confrontation. That would be awful for sholom bayis and cavod Shabbos. Or Cavod Rosh HaShanah, which would also soon be here. I sighed. I looked at that awful floor. How could I live with it?

Sholom Bayis. There was only one thing to do. I had to clean that floor before my husband returned from the mikveh. So I set to work with the appropriate zerizus, sponga, shmatta, bucket and aching back.

A couple of pales of water, sweat (excuse me, perspiration), adrenaline and more aching back later I sat in my chair and watched my workmanship dry. Now it will gleam and shine, I thought, proudly to myself! I'll show him what cleaning a floor is all about. Yeah.

It didn't gleam. It didn't reflect. It didn't even show the faintest suggestion of gloss. In fact it was as disappointingly, reproachfully maddeningly dull and patchy as it was an hour before.

It had been clean! There I was thinking such awful things about my husband's ability to do such work. I was no better. Yet I knew I had really scrubbed it. I was really glad I had done this extra work. Now I knew he was not to blame. Now there would not be dissatisfaction and a possible flare-up this Erev Shabbos. That is, if I don't let my feelings about excellence, perfection and aesthetics get the better of me.

Well, there is obviously more to floor cleaning than floor cleaning.

Old patches of waxy yellow build up, erosion and accumulation. Old dirt trapped in old wax. This calls for research!

It was then that I discovered that the secret of perfect floors lies in chemicals- wax stripper- high quality wax- wax protector. And I thought it just took diligence. Live and learn.

Well, I thought, there must be a mashal to all this, apart from the obvious lessons of Sholom Bayis, appreciating the chesed of a spouse, not letting principles get in the way of Principles and dan le caf zchus.

Waxy yellow build up could be a mashal for timtum halev. And that sounds like a good mashal for Rosh Hashanah.

We seek excellence- not so much in the gashmius of our houses but in the development of ourselves. We, well, our G-dly neshama, desires cleanliness, purity, freedom from any taint or defilement of our inner being. How do we do this?

Torah is likened to water- it is essential for life. You cannot survive without water for more than a few days. Water also cleans, rinses away the grime of undesirable influences, the dust which settles on us daily from the environment.

But there is more to cleaning than cleaning. Sometimes you need a good wax stripper. Sometimes you need something really strong to dislodge the timtum HaLev- that nasty layer which tries to cement itself to our hearts- separating the purpose of the heart from that of the intellect. Waxy yellow build-up. The klipas on the heart. It seemed a workable idea.

Tshuva! The wonder solvent. Sounds like an ad, but you can't go to the nearest store and fetch it home. You have to DO it. Not read about it, talk about it, go to shiurim about it and intend to do it- those aid the process but are not the same thing as actually sitting down and DOING it.

I thought I was doing it. I wrote down everything that I did wrong. Then I looked at my records and found something strange.

"14th "Elul 5751- snapped at the children for climbing on my chair- while working on the computer " (it's so irritating isn't it? )

"Elul 5753- snapped at the children for climbing on my chair."

Hmm. Or...

"Av 5752- spoke Loshon hara. " "Cheshvan 5753- "(guess what?) "spoke loshon hara."

Truly amazing. I could cut down my records by 90% and keep the same basic information. Very discouraging. Obvious tim tum HaLev there, and I hadn't cleaned it, I'd done a documentary on it! Vidui clearly is not enough. Oh I had plenty of resolutions in there but nothing had carried through. Sigh. So how do you apply the resolution?

How do you apply wax stripper?

First- you have to make sure you've got chemically strong stuff, designed for the job. Charif. Cuts deep. You want the cleaner to soak right through. You want the decision to go straight to the heart.

The good news is- much of this "chemical power" is provided by Yom Kippur- all you have to do is say the words- to HaShem of course- and focussing on the pashut meaning of the words. (All you have to do! We all know how hard an Avodah this is, how much resistance we encounter! But the ikkar is to rally and go for it.)

And, of course, you have to keep the necessary halachos- afflict the soul. To continue the analogy- when you wax strip the floor you first of all remove all your furniture so you have plenty of unimpeded space to work. By not eating or otherwise indulging, you as it were, remove the gashmius "Furniture" from your mind. Then you can apply the tefilah. You need time to let it sit and take effect. That's why we daven for so many hours. HaShem does the rest.

So, in sum, our avodah is to put our true intentions ON our heart with all the kavanna we can. Only HaShem can actually put it IN our hearts. This idea is not mine, but found in the Torah. The atonement we receive on Yom Kippur is a tremendous chesed from HaShem. We just have to take full advantage of that gift.

Tikatevu vetichatemu besefer HaChaim!

Note- this is just a personal analogy to understand the removal of timtum halev- it does not deal with making amends, which of course must be done, or of methodical planning sometimes necessary in the keeping of resolutions on a long term basis.

Extra note- The whole procedure described above can be done, and really ought to be done on a daily basis. Repent now- avoid the Yom Kippur rush!

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

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