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Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's my essence?

Are these days of Elul, this countdown to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we look inward and we ask ourselves how we can return to that true essence of the self.  What is that true essence?  What does that mean?  Is it innocence, like a baby?  Is it purity, as in being cleansed?  Innocence and purity seem a little misplaced here.  For me, I like the notion that true essence is the return (teshuvah) to the moment, to that exact place in time and space just before the yetzer tov - the good inclination gives way to the to the yetzer ha-ra -the bad inclination.

I see it frequently when watching my own children.  When we're playing together, one will look at the other and then at me and then I see it - it see it in their eyes, the inclination to do something playfully destructive to the other.  The look is usually exactly the same and totally unique and recognizable.

What I want to try to catpture within myself is that moment - that moment when my choices no longer represent my positive influence, but changes to the negative.

For us adults in everyday circumstances, I experience that exact moment as being less definitive as my children, but it is not invisible.  For sure, there is a process by which our brains process our decisions, our thoughts and our future actions - mostly at the subconscious level where we are virtually unaware of them.

Where I want to focus is right before that change happens.  Perhaps there is a way to increase my own awareness of the circumstances when my mind contemplates wavering from that yetzer tov.  I don't expect to be perfect - and neither should you - but I do expect more of myself - to not stray down the same paths, not follow old, familiar ruts in my thinking and my actions.

What are your old, familiar paths?

Can you feel your yetzer tov (good inclination) give way to your yetzer ha-ra (bad inclination)?

What is going on with you at that exact moment just before one gives way to the other?

Cantor Seth Warner

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