We are basically at the halfway mark in the month of Elul. Many of us have engaged in the soul searching and questioning of this time of year. For many of us, the process is still daunting. This week I offer a different approach to dealing with our mistakes. The approach is of self-reflection as a way to get to know ourselves better. Rabbi Wolpe shares this kavanah that can give us a starting off point:
We think of self-examination during the month of Elul as a path to repentance. But it is more fundamental than a step toward something else: We examine ourselves to know who we are. Our darkness and our sins are part of us, stitched into our soul. Without coming to grips with what you have done wrong, you can never understand your own soul.
Our character is reflected in our actions and our relationships. But neither is the whole story. Some revelations call for introspection. Who am I? Have I become the person I was meant to be, or am I betraying or trivializing my destiny?
Look at a picture of your childhood self. Would that child be proud of the adult you have become? No one else on earth can answer that for you. Elul calls us to be deep sea divers into our souls. The stories in this book will serve as a spur to self-reflection. This is a time of year for repentance — acknowledgment, reparations, healing.
Equally it is a time for discovery. Only by apprehending who we are can we shape real hopes about who we might become. Forge ahead without fear into the mystery of your own soul and emerge wiser this year, and kinder.
David Wolpe is the Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.
It can be extremely difficult to look inwards and identify what we want to work on this year. It is not easy to admit where we have missed the mark. I hope the image of working on ourselves in an effort to know ourselves and love ourselves more may help us as we approach the Days of Awe.