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Friday, August 16, 2013

A Time to Reflect, A Time to Renew

Elul 11
Shabbat has begun, bringing with it time for rest and renewal.  Of course, we must choose to make some space for Shabbat in order to discover this kind of time:  time that moves at a slower pace, that is not hurried or rushed, that feels quiet and still, that allows us to reflect.  During Shabbat we might be able to allow the noise from a busy week to settle a bit, and in its place, if we are attentive, we might be able to hear the true yearnings of our hearts speaking to us about the kind of people we would like to become.  People, perhaps, who are less bitter and more grateful, or less judgmental and more compassionate.  

Our tradition teaches that each of us is capable of changing and growing.  Patterns can be broken, habits can evolve.  The "way things are" are not the way things have to be. If we desire change, we must begin with honest reflection - this process called cheshbon nefesh (taking account of one’s soul).  And this Shabbat might be just the right time to begin this process (if we have not done already) by asking ourselves the kinds of questions below:  

Do I judge others fairly, or am I habitually critical (both in what I say and what I think)?

Am I prone to anger? When I am angry, do I overreact and say or do things that inflict pain on others?

Do I avoid saying or doing what I believe is right because I fear how others will react or what they will think of me?

Am I stingy with my money or my time?

Am I able to ask for forgiveness?

Am I able to control my impulses, or do I give in to temptation easily?

Do I bear grudges and remain angry at others for a long time after an argument?  Can I accept a sincere apology?

When I hear of other people's sufferings or misfortunes, do I find ways to help them, or do I feel sadness in my heart but do nothing?

Do any of the questions resonate with you?  If so, focus on one or two areas of meaning and ask yourself:

Do I believe that change in this area of my life is possible?  What, if any, aspects of myself would I have to let go of in order to make this kind of change?

Have I tried to make a change like this before?  What stood in my way?  How might I avoid those same obstacles this time around?

What would my life, and the lives of those I love, look like if I could make this kind of change? *

May this Shabbat bring us rest and peace, and the quiet we need to begin to change and renew.

* Some questions taken from Rosh HaShanah Readings ed. by Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins

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