Sep 3, 2018

Every year when Elul rolls around the word teshuva begins to chime. The thought of Rosh Hashanah emerges on the horizon of our minds, and the tides of its associated emotion begin to wash ashore. Feelings of guilt, frustration and hope may start to emerge on the boarders of our consciousness, as we prepare to face the greatest obstacle to our success and barrier to change; ourselves. 

Possibly, the most daunting task involved in teshuva is understanding oneself.  What is holding me back from being me? To truly identify our weaknesses at their source and stop providing superficial band-aid like remedies to our struggles, we must look ourselves in the proverbial mirror and begin to authentically examine what we find. As we attempt to traverse the landscape of self we must struggle towards objectivity, while never forgetting that each and every one of us is tasked with a unique mission in this world and are therefore necessarily equipped to carry it out.

Imagine you run a plumbing business. You interview potential employees and the candidate with the best credentials for the job is hired. He turns up on the first day of the job bedecked in the company uniform complete with a friendly smile. You give him all the tools he needs to succeed and send him off on his first job. After an hour he returns looking a little frustrated. “How did it go?” you ask. “It didn’t.” responds the new employee. “It didn’t?” you ask curiously. “Well I didn’t have the wrench I needed so I wasn’t able to do the job, so I left!” responds your new employee. “Did you check your tool bag thoroughly?”  Low and behold the wrench is there in his tool bag hidden from a superficial glance but there nonetheless. If he would have only looked more thoroughly…

How often do we superficially glance over ourselves dissatisfied with what we find so we ‘leave and go home’ feeling unequipped to deal with the tasks and challenges life has thrown us. If we would only search a bit deeper, we would find ourselves to be fully equipped.  

R’ Yisroel of Salant observed: “A person lives with himself for seventy years, (and after it is all over,) he still does not know himself”.

Familiarizing ourselves with our innermost self is a daunting task and a lifetime of work, but a journey that must be embarked upon. To exempt ourselves of self-exploration and examination is negligent, wasteful and quite possibly destructive. When it comes to our finances we expend time, effort and money to ensure all is in order, ensuring that all our accounts add up, and most of all, that we are saving if not increasing our wealth wherever possible.  Why then do we consistently neglect ourselves and those we love by failing to properly examine ourselves, so that we can correct that which is wrong and empower that which is good?

In the search for gold you must first dig beyond the dirt under which it lies. As we explore our innermost self we stumble across the dirt of imperfection, everything I don’t want to be, yet still possess. The prospect of looking of at myself sternly and honestly, with integrity, is enough to frighten away the bravest worrier. However, upon wading through the dirt of our flaws, fears and insecurities, one can discover the island of hope which lies within and continues to beat constantly at our very source, our neshama, the source of all that is good within me, the very core of my being, that which connects me to eternal divinity.

The concept of self-reflection is so deeply ingrained within us that self-reflection is the very first thing Adam, the first man, is tasked with by G-d after the sin. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evilbrought about an awareness, a conscious of self, that Adam hides from. Adambecame conscious of his nakedness, his vulnerability, his mortality and perhaps also his new found capacity for evil. Adam is called to order by G-d for his transgression, not through severe rebuke or admonishment, but through one very simple question “Eiekah” - where are you?

G-d demands of Adam introspection. He was tasked then and we are tasked today. Face yourself, know your-self, discover your-self. Not for all that is wrong, but for all that is right. Dig beyond the dirt to find the gold that lies beneath. Empower that which is good, and embrace it. And allow your true glory to shine forth.    

This is our duty in the month of Elul, truly discover yourself and bring forth the real you!

Wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful year ahead, Ketiva v'chatima tova! 

TAGS for this article: Rosh Hashana