Printed from ChabadCentral.org

Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Now is the Time

Once I’ve made a mistake, can it ever be retroactively un-done?

Of course, we can make amends and learn for the future, But can we ever un-speak hurtful words?

In the concrete sense, that’s not possible. But there’s more to life than the concrete.

So let’s look at regret through a spiritual lens.

Sometimes, we rue an action because it created unpleasant consequences. When you’ve hurt someone important, and the relationship has become uncomfortable, and you apologize: Is it ever because you simply want the pain to go away?

If yes, that's regret of a sort; but it's not transformative remorse. It's more like ‘relationship management.’

In this scenario, you haven’t experienced any real character modification.

You’re uncomfortable with the REACTION to your behavior, not your action itself. Maybe you’re modifying your behavior from now on, but it’s because of someone else's response, not your own principles.

Real behavior modification doesn't usually happen that way. And you never end up ‘un-speaking’ those hurtful words.

But there’s a deeper way.

We can use our mistakes as profound teachable moments. As powerful springboards for positive change. And when you do that, you’ve reached into the past and transformed past mistakes into shining opportunities for present growth and self-improvement.

You’ve done the impossible, by restructuring and upgrading ‘spilled milk.’

Of course, what’s done is done, and you can’t control people’s memories. But you can control your own NOW, and grow from your own past. And, when real change happens, the rest of the world will eventually catch on.

We’re fast approaching the High Holidays, a time for introspection and re-alignment. A time to fine-tune our behavior for the New Year. And G-d is the wind at our backs.

The High Holidays ‘behavioral transformation project’ comes from a deeply empowered place. We believe that G-d created each of us with the capacity to be a true mentsch, living with character and integrity. Our innate potential, which no one external can control, is our gold standard. Every day, we should envision that potential as our gold standard, and measure our behaviors against that potential.

Because we want to do better. And we really can.

What better time to start, than now?

Hear the Knock?

What if today was your wedding anniversary, and you had plans for a romantic dinner? Would you be able to disengage from your work stresses, frustrations over our crazy politics and your ordinary distractedness?

I hope so. Because it's more than worth the effort. Every relationship needs its pause button, a sacred time when the partners put aside their busy pursuits and focus on each other, re-committing for an even stronger future together.

It works the same way in our relationship with our Creator. The High Holidays, which are 30 days away, aren't just a time to show up in synagogue. They are special days, set aside for spiritual intimacy; days when we focus on the purpose of our lives, our personal relationships with G-d and with life itself.  

Ideally, one doesn’t just walk out of a business meeting and sit down to an intimate dinner. One first takes the effort to mentally disengage from one's distractive world, shut one's smartphone, and mentally zero in on the importance of the relationship.

Similarly, Jewish life gives us the month of Elul, a preliminary month leading us up to Rosh Hashana. During Elul, G-d helps us edge out of our own self-absorption, so that we’re in psycho-spiritual shape for our ‘anniversary get-together' on the High Holidays. 

In Jewish tradition, Elul is known as the 'Month of Mercy,' a time when we each go out of our way to empathize with others’ needs, give more charity etc.

But Mercy means more than empathy, it means genuinely feeling the needs of someone who doesn't have any real claim on your time and resources. You have no concrete responsibility to this inidvidual, just a genuine sense that he/she is in need. And that sense creates enough connection to prompt you into action.

Elul is the Month of Mercy, a time when G-d gives us extra capacity to reach beyond our personal sensitivities and needs, and truly open our hearts to another. This makes Elul a great warm-up for the High Holidays: Rising above our self-absorption allows our internal G-dliness to shine, which  in turn primes us for intimate time with G-d on the High Holidays.

The month of Elul begins tomorrow, on Shabbos.  G-d will be knocking on our door, trying to draw us out of our self-directed perspectives in advance of Rosh Hashana.

 Open the door.

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.