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Saturday, September 5, 2015
Elul 22 - Tikkun Middot as Preparation for the Holidays - by Eve Dyson
The High Holidays are a time when we are supposed to look at our lives, to take stock, to ask forgiveness. For most of my life I didn’t do much to prepare for the holidays. When I was a kid, the preparation we did involved getting a new dress. I went to shul, fasted and did what I was supposed to do. But what I have discovered at this point in my life is that if I prepare for the holidays with intentionality and participate fully in the spirit of this time of year, it can be quite a meaningful experience. I am reminded to work toward being the person I want to be. I need to be reminded because it’s not easy work. Spiritual practice does not come easily for me. I have to practice, I have to set aside time, I have to think about it. I have to start over and then start over again, many times. Teshuva. Return. My preparation for the High Holidays is to try and get into a frame of mind that is open, introspective and willing.
I participated in one of the Tikkun Middot groups at Shaare Emeth this past year. During this year we were reminded to practice at being our best selves. We set aside time to think, to meditate, to slow down, to be. Each month we focused on a different Middah, a character trait. Our humanness. I did this with varying degrees of focus and success. But the point was that we tried. We made a decision and set an intention to focus inward and try to be honest with ourselves and worked to repair our inner selves.
In Reform Judaism we find virtue in Tikkun Olam. Repairing the world. We teach our children that it is their duty to help make the world a better place. Sometimes we come up with amazing ideas of ways to help. We encourage and reward our children and our friends in these endeavors. This is a wonderful part of Judaism. I believe that Tikkun Middot is another meaningful way to practice Tikkun Olam. I like to think of Olam as macro and Middot as micro. We look inward and introspect, examining our humility, patience, kindness, respect, and trustworthiness among other character traits. We make adjustments in our thinking and our behavior. We do small tests of change, experiments. When we do these things not only do we repair ourselves, we actually repair the world as well.
Imagine a world where everyone practiced Tikkun Middot. We would all be striving to be kind, thoughtful, respectful. We would be able to acknowledge when we have hurt someone or made a mistake. We would trust each other and trust God. Wow. What a wonderful world. If we all did that with all our heart and soul, we wouldn’t need to practice Tikkun Olam. Well at least for a while. After all we are all human, which means that we are frail, vulnerable and sometimes cruel. But then Teshuva, return. Return inside, meditate, practice the Tikkun Middot.
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