Monday, September 5, 2016

Elul Tools - 3 Elul 5776

Elul Tools  

Building a Strong Foundation 
for the Days of Awe

Shofar Blast 
(press the arrow below)



Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

Whom have I wounded? 
Yes, I caused pain, ruptured peace.
Why? I am human.

3 Elul—Time for Serious Soul Searching 

One of the primary tasks during Elul and the Days of Awe is to examine ourselves intently, intensively. In Hebrew this process is called “Cheshbon Hanefesh” which literally translates as an accounting or inventory of the soul. Cheshbon is the accounting part, hanefesh is the soul part. Fortunately it’s not all about examining the bad parts. It's about taking an honest and neutral look at the state of affairs of our lives. In addition to exploring our mistakes, our challenges, our weaknesses, we should also pay attention to our successes and our strengths. However, there are times during Elul when zeroing in on our shortcomings is required. We will get started with this today.

The inward journey of “Cheshbon Hanefesh” leads us through many facets of our lives including relationships, health, work, finances, mitzvot, community, etc. Obviously this terrain is too expansive to contemplate on Yom Kippur day only. That is why we begin to consider these areas of our lives well before the big day. In this way, we are prepared for atoning on Yom Kippur and ready to recalibrate for the year ahead.

Over the course of the next several days we will take some time to
consider all these separate aspects of our lives. We will take it slowly, focusing on one area at a time. Today we start with relationships, in particular our immediate families. In order to achieve "shalom bayit,” or peace within the home, each of the individual relationships we have within our family needs its own proper tending.

As we begin to delve into contemplating our family relationships, we need to
remember that the soul work needed now is about taking responsibility. Of course there are terrific reasons for all the things we do in our intimate relationships. Our task now is not to seek rationale for mistakes made or defend our own hurtful behaviors. Instead we acknowledge the errors and take responsibility for our part in disrupting the shalom, the peace with our homes and families.

Think about your hurtful actions toward your family members and consider the impact it has had. Looking at this part of ourselves is difficult. Avoid judging yourself too harshly. 

Instead try to view your behavior and its consequences in a neutral,
fly-on-the wall way. Remember that every human being has moments of callousness, disregard, anger. Fortunately relationships are resilient and can endure lots of wear and tear. It is normal and healthy for relationships to be tested, to have conflict, to bear pain. The good news is that a large part of relationships is the repair process. It’s not that a "good" relationship should be free of disruption and hurt. Rather the health of a relationship is measured by how quickly, how genuinely repair is accomplished.

Today’s Elul Tool: Take some time to think about the people in your immediate family (i.e. the ones you live with). Consider the ways in which you hurt them over the past year. Don’t think about why you hurt them. Don’t try to explain it. Just think about how each of these people has been affected by insensitivities on your part (criticalness, impatience, rejection, neglect). Try to avoid jumping to how they have hurt you in similar ways. For today, just sit with the realization that you caused pain, you distrubed peace.

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

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