If memory serves correctly (and that is highly questionable), there’s a scene in Apollo 13 where the crew – through a process of running data, tracking coordinates, or whatever it is they do up there in space – realize that they have somehow drifted off course. It’s a slight drift, but enough that reentry into Earth’s atmosphere could be in severe jeopardy. So they follow a correcting procedure and prepare themselves for a “burn” that will get them back on track for the rest of their journey.
Unfortunately, all kinds of systems are down and they no longer have a way to orient themselves until … someone looks out the window and finds the moon. If he can keep it in his sights (easier said than done), he can make the necessary adjustments to set them back on course. And it worked! Not just in Hollywood, but in real life.
The more consistently we check the course of our journey, the more opportunity we have to make adjustments when they’re still relatively minor. But at least once a year, we devote ourselves to the process. During the month of Elul, we take our measurements and make an honest assessment of how much we’ve deviated off course. At Selichot, we begin the checklist in earnest that prepares ourselves for the High Holy Days, the “burn.”
And throughout the process, we keep in our sight the Torah and its teachings, its lessons and values – the guideposts of our tradition that mark the way to a meaningful life.