Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 16 Elul 5776

Elul Tools 

Building a Strong Foundation 
for the Days of Awe

Shofar Blast 
(press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

Repairing the rift...
better than no rift at all.
We are closer now.

16 Elul—Clean Up Time!

Teshuvah is more than just an introspective review of the past year. While this is a critical component for getting ourselves back on track, we must ALSO work to tidy up messes made along the way. Judaism emphasizes deed over creed. What we think, or think about, pales in comparison to our actions in the world. So now that we have carefully considered our conduct over the past year, we move toward rectifying mistakes.

In our relationships with people, this means directly acknowledging our errors to hurt parties, expressing our remorse, and asking for forgiveness. This is not an easy process. Of course it’s much easier to mull things over privately and sweep them into a far away corner of our mind. But our Sages ask us to do more. This DOING is what will begin to tip that scale of our deeds back to middle, and hopefully beyond.

Reb Zalman, in referring to Hasidic teaching explains:

 “God is more angry that we don’t take advantage of Teshuvah than over the sin itself. There is such a wonderful way to turn back and to make amends and clear things up. The fact that we leave that and don’t pick it up is a worse sin than the sin itself.” 

Perhaps we could say that we actually reach a more elevated place when we mess up and then fix it, than if we never messed up in the first place. Why?Because we have grown and learned more by throwing ourselves head first into the messiness of life. All of us are in a constant state of growing and becoming better people, whether we are 5 or 105. There is no magical age where we have perfected the art of being human. It’s ongoing trial and error. Additionally, the repair process creates and strengthens trust and intimacy. The key, as Reb Zalman points out, is to do the necessary repair when we fail. The sin is not the mistake, but failing to correct it.

Today’s Elul Tool:  Recall the folks you considered during our vigorous Chesbon Hanefesh (Jewish soul search) over the past two weeks. This includes close family and friends as well as extended family and acquaintances. Are there any major rifts that need healing? Are there day after day emotional injuries that need attention? For today, simply make a list of the people with whom repair is necessary. This includes minor aggravations to major blow-outs. Just a list. However this should be an actual list, not a mental exercise. You’ve done the reflecting, now start taking action. Put pen to paper and make a list.

Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
Here is an online version of Psalm 27 for easy access. 

For Families and Kids!

Junior Tool Box: The High Holidays give families the opportunity to talk about taking responsibility for our actions. When we make mistakes or hurt others, we should work quickly to repair the damages. If we “forgot” or “overlooked” some of these errors over the past year, we have a the month of Elul to do a big “clean up.” Just like there are clean up days for parks and beaches, people need big clean up events to pick up the straggling pieces of emotional garbage we may have left behind.

Sometimes it’s difficult for kids to recall things they are sorry for in the past when simply asked. Again, that’s why Elul is so nice in that it gives us time to think things over. Create a family “I’m Sorry Banner” and post somewhere prominent in your home. As things come up, write them on the banner. It’s a nice visual to see during Elul. It keeps the momentum of Teshuvah going!

Have an “apology” meeting in the family. Everyone take turns apologizing for things they have done in the past year that hurt other people in the family. It’s great to have parents role model by saying what they are sorry for. It shows children that grown ups make mistakes too and it’s a normal/healthy exercise to take responsibility. For example, “I’m sorry I get impatient when we are late. I will try to be more calm this year when we are behind schedule.”

Based on the apologies above, make a list of individual and family goals for improved behavior in the year ahead. Post somewhere in your home for regular reminders during the year.

Very young children really don’t have much to apologize for. Instead focus on goals and areas for growth and added family responsibility in the new year. For example, “This year we’ll work on you putting your clothes in the hamper all by yourself.” Make a list and post in your home.

A great book for older children on the subject of Teshuvah is Gershon’s Monsters by Eric Kimmel. It discusses the importance of not only reflecting on our errors but also experiencing remorse, seeking forgiveness, and making repairs. Gershon's Monsters also emphasizes that ignoring the repair process is counter-productive and ultimately creates problems in our lives.

Listen to, learn, and then sing “Let's Be Friends” (audiolink below).

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