The little boy drew a picture of himself, painstakingly choosing the right crayons to accurately depict how he thought he looked. When he finished, he stood back and admired his handiwork. He was so proud of his effort that he begged his mother to let him come to her office the next day so that he might make copies of the picture to send to his grandparents, his aunts and uncles, and everyone else he knew. His mother humored him and agreed.
The boy stood before the copy machine, lovingly placed the picture on the glass, and pushed the button to make a copy. He removed the original, placed the copy on the glass, and pushed the button again. He then removed that copy from the tray and repeated the cycle.
After 10 copies had been made in this fashion, the boy eyed the final copy with a sad look. He held it up to the original and remarked to his mother, "This is a bad picture. I can't even tell who I am anymore."
Often at this season we echo the boy's lament. While the downgrading of our self-image is not due to the limitations of xerographic technologies, the result is the same. We engage in self-examination and realize that we no longer recognize ourselves. We can't tell who we are anymore.
But the cheshbon nefesh-- the soul searching-- that we engage in during this month of Elul in preparation for the holiday season, allows us to engage in mindful introspection. It allows us to adjust those aspects of ourselves that are perhaps not quite as we might like them to be, and to put our best foot forward for the year ahead. In this way we have an opportunity to make the outward image we project match the way we perceive ourselves in our hearts.