Thursday, August 12, 2010

Elul Thoughts 5770, part 2

Elul 2 (August 12): by Rabbi Alan E. Litwak
The High Holy Day period is about both getting inside and outside of yourself. We need to get inside ourselves and be willing to see who we truly are – our faults and failures, as well as our strengths and successes. Only then, can we properly focus our attentions and energies on the wider community. There is a wonderful Hasidic lesson that juxtaposes these focuses and suggests a reason for the separation.

A rich miser once complained to the Rabbi about the many demands that were made upon him. The Rabbi led him to the window and said: “Look out and tell me what you see.” “I see people,” said the man. Then the Rabbi led him to the mirror on the wall and said, “Now look and tell me what you see.” The man answered, “Now I see myself.” “The difference between the glass in the window and the glass in the mirror is only a layer of silver,” said the Rabbi. “As soon as a bit of silver is added, you cease to see others and see only yourself.”

Over the next few weeks, I challenge you to find those things that focus you solely on yourself and clear them away so that you can see the needs and concerns of others.

Elul Thoughts 5770, part 1

ELUL 1 (August 11): Joining in the Great Return, by Rabbi Alan E. Litwak
My teacher, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, taught:
“Teshuvah is the ever present possibility, urge, and gesture of returning to our Source, the Holy One of All Being. Through teshuvah all life is returned to its source. As Rav Kook teaches, it flows unnoticed throughout creation. Teshuvah is not simply apologizing or making right the damage we have done, though these are prerequisites. It is only this: The Return. Teshuvah is the hardest thing in the world . . . but it is also the easiest thing, since the process of teshuvah begins with the simple thought of wanting to begin.
More than just an individual gesture, teshuvah is a great world yearning that flows through and animates all creation. Through attempting to repair and heal what we have done in the past, we set it within a larger context of meaning and effectively rewrite the past. What was once only some thoughtless or even wicked act, now – when viewed from the perspective of our present teshuvah – becomes only the embarrassing commencement of this greater healing now realized.”