Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yamim Noraim 5771, Part 2: Introspection Is Only Part of It


7 Elul, 5770

This is the season of examination. This is the time to look within, to ask important questions of ourselves, to prepare to become the people we want to be but are not yet. This is the time for introspection.


The extraordinary Rav Kook reminds us that, although the first step is look within, to remain solely within is a mistake.

One of our great problems as human beings is that we often do not love enough. Think of the litany of life areas in which we would like to be better: spending more time with our kids, appreciating our spouses more, being kinder, being more patient; all these are expressions of love, directed either at others or at ourselves, which we should engage in more.

Ironically, not loving enough will also prevent us from making real teshuvah. Because we struggle to love, we are unlikely to look at ourselves with love. We will often assess behavior that is perfectly acceptable, or needs minor adjustment, with an eye that is far too critical. In his words, “do not call a sin all that the imagination calls a sin… [rather have] ‘just balances and just scales’” (Leviticus 19:36). And while our eyes are focused on our illusory faults, what really needs to change will be left behind.

Introspection alone may lead us astray.

So, says Rav Kook, we need to turn to something external. Something constant, even eternal, that stands outside of our emotional ebbs and flows. We need to find something that is a “just balance” and a “just scale,” against which we can measure our perceptions. And we need to find something that has, mixed with its judgment of what is right, a great deal of love for humanity.

First we need to look within; then we need to learn Torah.

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