Living with the Month

What Do You Fear?

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame is someone I grow to admire more and more by the blog post.  I frequently turn to his blog for inspiration and most importantly, practical tips on leading a more mindful life in a world that seems to be more “to’hu va’vohu” in its increasing chaos.

Recently he’s shared posts exposing his failings and fears.  Yes, the energy of Elul is strong in the world.

While t’shuvah, repenting for our sins and striving to be better is a mitzvah every day, Elul holds within it a sacred space to recalibrate and reset ourselves for the coming year.  Any day of the year we can (and must) confess our sins.  Yet, in our yearning for piety we may inadvertently overlook a crucial element of Elul, exposing ourselves and facing our own deep-rooted vulnerabilities.  To be sure, vidui (confession) over failing to uphold Shabbat, the kashrut mixups, hurtful words uttered, unfair judgements passed is vital but could it be that our hyper-diligence to account for each sin like line-items on a spreadsheet is in itself a mask?  Have we peeked behind the curtains, swept beyond veils of guilt to face our fears, our sense of inadequacy, our doubts of worthiness?

It’s a challenge getting to know ourselves in a world that has forgotten the sacred art of hitbodedut, of meditation and silence.  In this world the challenge is all the greater and all the more important.  Seeing all the parts of you, exposing yourself to your weakest points will direct you to the areas that beg for the most self-love and compassion, the points that are in fact your greatest potential for growth.

How has your life journey introduced you to your vulnerabilities?  How do you respond to your failings?  How do you grow from your past mistakes and mis-steps?  Share in your journal or comment below!


Hitbodedut – or as Reb Shlomo understands it, holy-aloneness…

Meditate today, practice "hitbodedut" or as Reb Shlomo calls it "holy-aloneness". ||


Living with the Month, Uncategorized


Body Work, Living with the Month, Monthly Questions, Rosh Chodesh

Elul 5773

Question for Elul – How did you practice loving forgiveness towards yourself?  How did you show love and forgiveness to another?

One of the most fascinating aspects of tshuvah is that we first need to repair relationships with our fellow man before we can really ask forgiveness from Hashem.  In order to reach this elevated state of caring and love for our fellow man we must take another step back and first love ourselves, then our love for others will come from the most authentic place.  We can’t give to others something that we have not truly experienced ourselves.  So to is the case with forgiveness.  We cannot expect Hashem to forgive us if we have not internalized the experience of forgiving others.

Our tshuvah, whether personal (bein adam l’makom) or interpersonal (bein adam l’chaveiro) must be properly framed and contextualized.  The cheshbon hanefesh that we undertake during the month of Elul is not meant to focus our attention on the details of our lives, but rather on the underlying foundational truths that guide us in our life decisions.  Of course we need to be keeping mitzvot, constantly growing in our understanding and observance, but that can’t be all.  We can be doing all the right motions, but if the initial intention isn’t kadosh, l’shem shamayim, then we are missing the crucial piece of the puzzle. It’s like having a check with a bunch of zeros on it – meaningless. But put a number, just one number before the zeros- it takes on a completely different meaning.

To paraphrase a teaching by Rav Steinsaltz, in Elul we begin a journey forward, but like any journey, before setting out we must first set our sights towards our goal.  Our purpose is to bring geula (redemption) to the world, to uplift and perfect the world for the coming of Mashiach.  Every facet of our lives is directed to this goal.

Rav Steinsaltz emphasizes that the entire idea of Elul, and tshuvah is to align ourselves with a greater purpose, and to not allow ourselves to get distracted by the small things. Think big picture. The intention to bring Mashiach is our primary focus and it is upon us to be striving for the biggest redemption.  We must build ourselves – our bodies and our soul – so that ours will be the path on which Mashiach arrives. We should be prepared for this, not settle for less than this, and not want anything besides this.