Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yamim Noraim 5571, Part 1:Introspection: Beginning the Process


My teacher Reb Mimi Feigelson sometimes won’t teach people certain texts. They’re called mussar, which is the Jewish practice of self-discipline and radical self-actualization: essentially the practice of how to change.
            She, being one of the most sincere, committed people I know, quite surprised me with this revelation. I had expected that she’d be all about hardcore teshuvah.
When I asked why she has these rules, she explained that there are times when deep introspection can be unhealthy; it can destabilize our psyche rather than strengthen it; merely disassembling someone’s heart is pain without point.
The month of Elul, the month that begins of introspection and self-correction called teshuvah, begins tomorrow. Even morning we will blow shofar to wake ourselves up, to stir ourselves to be better; however, that process can only begin if we have a strong sense of the goodness of who we are, if we are able to look at our lives with joy.
The Ben Ish Hai – the brilliant leader of Baghdadi Jewry of the 19th century, teaches that excessive sadness itself is a transgression for which we must account on Yom Kippur. It is critical to look towards the process of our own change with joy, for the potential to always become better is in truth a gift; moreover, a gift whose preciousness gives to us as long as we draw breath. Indeed, the Talmud teaches that there are few days of joy to compare to Yom Kippur, for when else do we so fully celebrate the possibility for renewal?
May we receive the season of teshuvah in joy.

No comments:

Post a Comment