From the talk at 15 on orange- 25 Elul/ Sep 28- In partnership with Gardens Shul
[Dedicated to refuah shlaima to Ezriel ben Mina- a complete and speedy recovery.]
There seem to be many new beginnings on the Jewish calendar. For starters, 25th Elul- the first day of creation of the world. By Divine Providence when looking for a date for soul talk this was the date that we chose, and when reflecting on the timing and the topic, I realized it was a perfect match.
So first there’s Rosh Hashanah, the day when humans and animals was created, and therefore every year, G‑d determines our new bill for the year. Then there’s Yom Kippur, the day when our wrong doings are forgiven, giving us a fresh new clean start. And then there’s Shabbat Bereishit- the Shabbat after Simchat Torah, when we read the first portion of Genesis. It is said that the way we conduct ourselves on Shabbat Bereishit has great relevance to starting the year off right.
Shouldn’t all these new beginnings be all together in one? Doesn’t it make sense to start the year, get a clean slate, and begin the Torah cycle from the beginning all on the same day?
One practical answer may be.....As humans, we take time to process. We need to set our goals and projections now before the New Year, to prepare for Rosh Hashana. But it takes time to really internalize the changes we are making during this time of year. It’s a process of soul-searching, resolving to align ourselves with our higher selves, and then actually translating that resolve into action. From the potential to the actual perfection. And Shabbat Bereishit is the culmination of that process. Shabbat Bereishit demands of us, “Have the High Holidays really changed you? Now that you’re returning to your daily life, will you carry that inspiration and allow it to permeate the every day rat race?” The good news is that just like G-d recreates the world every moment [according to the teachings of kabbalah] , every day and every moment becomes a new beginning to work on ourselves to reach our goals.
We have just a few days before the New Year now to a. reflect on the past year, and b. set our projections for our new year, to THINK what do we want to get out of the New Year?
[The past year was a leap year, with an extra month, in order to bring the lunar and solar calendars to work together. The lunar calendar [Tishrei-Elul- Jewish months] represents the Divine world, the solar calendar [Jan-Dec] represents the secular material world. Our mission is to unite the two. Not to be angels, but to be physical beings , living in a physical world, but bringing down Hashem's purpose into this world, of making a place that Hashem feels comfortable to reside in - in this lowly world, with physical beings. ]
Since this is a soul-talk...ill leave it to others to talk about your personal physical goals for the year...your trainer can help you set projections for the body side of things...I'll stick to the soul side. Perhaps, I can help provide a space to encourage us to think about our soul goals.
The medrash says 'Kol hatchalot kashot' - all beginnings are difficult. So using the analogy, like our example with training and gym, you know how your muscles feel when you first use them and you haven't used them for a while...stiff, its hard, its tiring.
The same may be true on the soul side....if you haven't contemplated about what your soul goals are...it may be hard for you in the beginning, and hard to start accomplishing as well, but the more you train the soul muscle, the more flexible and used to it it becomes, and then you can get stronger and stronger weights etc..and step yourself higher and higher.
The Jewish year is a cycle that repeats itself, but our job is to go upwards yearly in a spiral cycle, improving ourselves and our thoughts, speech and action- in our connection to Hashem and inner essence- our neshama-soul- with every New Year.
We'll get back to that at the end, and I'll help make it practical for you.
So getting close to yomtov, I would like to re-frame the South African Jewish mentality of coming to Shul out of 'Jewish guilt'. If there is any message I can give over, it's that Shul, Rabbis, Rebbetzins are only here to foster and help give you the space to connect with your inner yearning- which is to be closer to Hashem. That's what we all have intrinsically in common. We are part of the 'ECHAD' oneness of Hashem, and constantly yearn to be part of it.
Teshuva- which is traditionally translated as repentance- should rather be translated as 'RETURN' , 'Toshuv and Hebrew letter Hay'- Returning to the HAY'- Hay has 2 meanings- Hay= Hashem, and Hay= numerical value of 5- alluding to the 5 levels of the soul. So the mission of doing 'Teshuva'- should not be merely repenting- [that is vidui- confessions done on Yom Kippur].
Of course some remorse about past actions is needed with resolve to change that for the future, and these are the 2 steps of Teshuva, but in essence all we are doing is making a U-turn to our true source- Hashem , and our soul, which is the part of Hashem within us, not having to become a completely new and changed being.
The only reason a Jew may deny that aspect within, is because the love for Hashem may be 'hidden within'. Tanya - A guide to Jewish Mysticism- speaks about 'ahava mesuteret' -'The Hidden Love' that is found in the heart of every Jew. Sometimes it is dormant, covered over, by our material pursuits, living and being distracted in a material world, that plays tricks on us and makes us forget, blinding us on our real and true mission , our inner desire to reconnect with Hashem. But the good news is, we are capable of accomplishing this, and it is possible through daily work to bring out our inner love and will, and strengthen it.
So the next time , someone tells you 'I don't believe in G-d , I'm an atheist' You can tell them , 'Judaism doesn't believe in atheists.'
So here is the practical suggestion for making your soul resolutions:
Schedule a time with yourself! You're as important as your child, husband, colleague, child's teacher, employer etc. Make some time for yourself to do the work of Reflections and Projections. Get your journal out and start writing this down.
What was the past year's soul accomplishments/ downfalls? How can I improve this for the coming year?
Take 3 areas of growth. MIND, HEART, ACTION. [or thought, speech and action]
1. The mind- connect to the wisdom of our true source, Hashem, through extra Torah learning, as G-d's wisdom and G-d are one.
Set a time once a week, if you're already doing that, once a day, or if you're doing that, twice a day to learn something. Ask your spiritual coach/ local Rebbetzin which area and how you can best fit that in for your personal needs e.g a Torah class/research over the net [chabad.org/ aish.com etc/ chayenu.org subscription] , there are myriads of options. What do you want to know? set a time to learn it!
2. Avoda- service of the heart to Hashem. There can be many options for this. But some prime examples can be meditation on Hashem's kindness, greatness and our gratitude. Prayers accomplish this [which is why prayer is a form of Jewish meditation, if one is really mindful]. Bring your heart closer to Hashem, and bring that hidden love to the forefront. How are you going to do this daily? Perhaps morning and night...a good start is often Modeh Ani- gratitude prayer in morning, and Shema in morning and evening.
3. Gemilut Chasadim- This can literally refer to the act of giving. But in a broader sense, it can be action based Mitzvot that you are being generous in by using your body to do a Mitzvah.. allowing yourself to move beyond your limitations, and take something on that you have not until now.
'Na-utz techilatan bsofan' The Beginning and End are wedged together....Hashem created the world with the end goal in purpose, to make a viable home for an all powerful G-d to reside with physical beings, who partner with Hashem to perfect the world.'
Therefore, the only way we can make sure the year will be a good and sweet one, is to CREATE our new year, to start with our end goal, setting the goals and then actually putting realistic measures in to achieve them. What do we want to be thinking, feeling, doing as a partner with Hashem in creation?
Go set a time asap to connect yourself...before Rosh Hashana on sunday night!
Shana Tova Umetuka! May we all be blessed with a year of revealed blessings, and revealed connection to Source!
Credits: Sasha Friedman Chabad.org blog
My spiritual teachers over the years.