Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Godliness of Forgiveness- It’s all about me

 

mobiusbraceletHow do I forgive? I am supposed to use the month of Elul to prepare for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time of introspection, to reflect on how I can improve in the year to come by looking at where I went astray in the year past. I need to seek forgiveness from God as I bare my soul. But our tradition teaches I cannot ask God for forgiveness until I have sincerely attempted to reconcile with my fellows. It all starts and ends with me.

 Who among us does not deserve an apology from someone who has treated us improperly? But am I ready to welcome that apology if it comes? And if it does not come, am I prepared to reach out and help those who do not know how to ask for forgiveness and how would I do that? It is very hard to rise above my pain and hurt to embrace the humanity in the other.

 And what about those whom I have wronged? Can I find it in myself to be contrite and ask forgiveness from them? Pride and principle often get in the way, blocking what could otherwise be a caring relationship. Even when I sincerely believe I am right, standing on principle creates an impasse. Then I must consider whether it is more important to be right or to be the one who can reach out and embrace someone I care about.

 Finally and very importantly is forgiving myself. I look inside and see my shortcomings, the places where I did not do as I hoped I would, the places where I am shackled by guilt, immobilized by my personal sense of shame or deficiencies. I am the victim of the harshest critic of all, me. What can I do to finally say I am sorry; I forgive me so I can finally begin to heal from my wounds and move forward, not place a bandage over them. Keeping them locked inside only chains me to a past filled with hurt.

 Sins and transgressions are big and small. Whichever they are, my inability to move beyond them and sit in judgment places barriers between us. They estrange me from those I love locking me into a narrow place. If I can move beyond the pain and hurt, however, forgiveness can be a transformative experience. It is quite difficult but when I truly forgive, a great weight is lifted from me. Barriers that once separated fall and I can reunite with those who had become distant whether it is another I love or the child within. If I can temper “din” (judgment) with “rachamim” (mercy), then I am acting in a more Godly, selfless way. And perhaps it is through these acts of human forgiveness I might attain forgiveness from the Eternal One.

 Perhaps the first step on this path is through our traditional MiShebeyrach prayer for healing. May the one who blessed our fathers and our mothers bless those in need of healing with a refuah shlemah, a restoration of completeness. I will speak the words for them and for me too.

 May this be a year of health, wholeness, and healing for us all~

L’Shana Tova!

Shabbat Shalom

Shir Lama’alot- Psalm 121, A Song of Ascents

Cantor Harold Messinger shares his beautiful melody

This thoughtful rendition helps set the mood for this Shabbat in Elul.  Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom.

שיר למעלות
אשא עיני אל ההרים
מאין יבא עזרי
עזרי מעם הי
עושה שמים וארץ
אל יתן למוט רגלך
אל ינום שומרך
הנה לא ינום ולא יישן שומר ישראל
הי שומרך
הי צלך
על יד ימינך
יומם השמש לא יככה
וירח בלילה
הי ישמרך מכל רע
ישמור את נפשך
הי ישמור צאתך ובואך
מעתה ועד עולם
Song of Ascents
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper:
the Lord is thy shade
upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
He shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Psalm in English and Hebrew from
http://lyricstranslate.com/en/%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%A8-%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%AA-shir-lamaalot-song-ascents.html

Elul and Mercury in Retrograde- what happens when Astrology and Judaism collide?

MercuryRetrogradeMercury is in retrograde. From August 30 through September 22, Mercury is moving backward in the sky from our perspective. This is the third of four such occurrences this year according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Astrologers say this event is supposed to mark a time for reflection rather than new action. This is not a time for decision-making. Instead, we are to assess priorities and plan to move forward by reviewing projects and determining where to appropriately focus energy.

 Elul is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. It is our Jewish time for deep reflection and repentance as we prepare for the High Holidays. For many of us, this is our period of Teshuva, the “return to God” that requires seeking and granting forgiveness as we strive to understand where we went astray and how we can get back on the path of living a meaningful righteous life.

 I’m not suggesting that there is some equivalence between Astrology and Judaism or that the early astrologers were Jews. But I believe that making time to take stock of whom we are is of utmost importance to finding fulfillment. The unexamined life is not worth living, so teaches Socrates in Plato’s Apology. So many of us are consumed by the day-to-day issues of living, sometimes, it is all but impossible to step back and assess where we are and where we are going.

 In life we often awake to find we have been blown off course. Anyone who has ever piloted a plane or a boat knows navigation is an ongoing process of course corrections, so too life. Currents and tides constantly push us off course and our aim has to compensate if we are ever to arrive at our destination. For some of us, we don’t even take the time to determine what our destination might be. For all of us Elul is an appointed time to engage in the process.

 As we approach these High Holidays may you find forgiveness for those who have offended you, be forgiven by those whom you have offended and find your true path of meaning, relationships, and fulfillment.

 L’Shana tova

Shabbat Shalom

Lo Yaavod- A great music video based on the commentary of Rabbi Obadia by Yaakov Shwekey.  A translation of the lyrics is below.

It is a message of brotherhood, love and Klal Yisrael- a great way to start Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom

Do not be as slaves

Do not be as slaves who serve their master for the sake of reward.
One should serve his Creator solely out of love.
(Mishnah Avot, C – commentary of Rabbi Obadiah)
Do not be as slaves who serve their master
for the sake of reward.
A man should not serve
A man should not serve his Creator
Unless out of love
Unless solely out of love
Alone