Monday, September 21, 2009

A NEW YOU

Tax time for the Soul:
Just as we are required to take a yearly accounting of our finances at a specific time of year and report it to the government, so too, does the soul have a specific time of year to be accounted for. And that time of year is now! The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the time to take an accounting of our soul and report our findings to the Almighty.

Rosh Hashanah has passed and now the time has come for us to begin anew. Our slate is almost wiped clean. Why almost? Because now, the hard work really begins. We are preparing for Yom Kippur. The next few days present us with a fantastic opportunity and one of the core principles of Rabbi Salanter's wisdom. The one that teaches us that "being alive is recognizing one's flaws." We now have a special time-related opportunity to put this into action and practice what we learn all year. It's the time of year to recognize our flaws.

"Being alive" means being present and joyful in the experiences of our lives. There is a joy in realizing that we constantly have opportunities to become new again. We all have flaws and character traits. Not one of us is perfect. For if we were, we would have nothing to strive for. When we have nothing to strive for, life becomes meaningless. The majority of us can admit that we don't want to live a meaningless life without purpose. Most of us disguise our jobs or careers as our purpose in life. When actually, the purpose of our lives is developed and elevated only through our inter-personal relationships.... the way we act, think and speak towards others. Our jobs and careers are for sustenance and livelihood. Our only true joy and life- fulfilling pleasure... comes from inter-personal relationships. This is why our inter-personal relationships are so important to who we are and to our relationship with Hashem.

We need others to help us to live to our full potential.
We cannot experience love without having someone to love.
We cannot achieve respect, without having someone to respect.
We cannot achieve self-worth, without having someone to inter-personally relate with.
The way we think, act and speak of others is what gives us the insight into who we are.

That is why on Yom Kippur, we are admitting our sins as they are related to others. And even our inner thoughts of others can be considered as sins. The recitation of the viduy/confession prayer during Yom Kippur is mostly related to sins we have sinned in relationship to how we treated others during the past year. The power of mussar learning gives us the chance to realize and practically apply the lessons so that we can actually strive to free ourselves from sin. Surprisingly, it can be a process of joy.

Finding this joy then becomes part of a new daily process.
That process is called..... Living Mussar Every Day.

It is the process of learning how to be accountable for our actions, thoughts and speech, as we inter-personally relate to others. One who is unaware of his flaws, goes through life without accountability. If one doesn't account for their thoughts, actions and speech- one cannot experience a joyful, peace-filled life. Accountability (awareness of our character traits and flaws) is the key to the door of peace in all our relationships.

The purpose of life is to strive to live to our "full potential." This makes life meaningful. The only way we can achieve our "full potential", which leads to meaningful living- is through recognition of our flaws. When we are able to honestly look at our selves and see our flaws, then admit to our self, to the other person and to the Almighty- then and only then, can we free ourselves from the shackles of the evil inclination (the yetzer hara). The evil inclination that appears throughout our day, all day, everyday. It is there constantly trying to convince us that we are always perfect and right and that everyone else is wrong and flawed. When we are able to live with the recognition that we are flawed, we can then experience the joy of humility. How can humility be joyful? Humility brings joy to a relationship because it takes away the thoughts which lead one to live with the evil inclination that is telling them that everyone else one is always wrong and flawed. When we start looking honestly at ourselves, we become humble and recognize our own flaws. When we begin this process, we stop judging and criticizing others. That is when we become liberated. We can turn around our thoughts of others, as we see their goodness. It is at this time, that we can become free from the shackles of the evil inclination and turn our thoughts, actions and speech of others into only goodness. We become walking representatives of Hashem!

The only path that leads us to our full potential is the mussar path. Through the power of mussar learning, we become accountable for our actions, thoughts and speech and feel good knowing that we are living Kiddush Hashem. (our actions, thoughts and speech are holy and pleasing to Hashem). We cannot forget that Hashem is a vital part of this process that can not be omitted. We have to answer to ourselves, as we have to answer to Him. We are reaching for our full potential, as we are created in His image. We can be better, we can think better, and we can act better. As long, as we are willing to recognize our flaws.

Through this next week, as we approach Yom Kippur, let us take an accounting of ourselves. Take time to notice how we think, act and speak towards others. May we have the strength to face our flaws, so that we can experience the joy of humility. May we strive to see that the process of the accounting of our souls is joyful, not dreadful.

The next few days, give us a precious and valuable opportunity. Now is the time to ask forgiveness to those persons we may have harmed. It is the time to remember that Hashem treats all people, as we treat others. It is the time to totally remove all hatred and ill-feelings from our heart. The process of Living Mussar Every Day puts us on the direct path to teshuvah (repentance). Mishlei 15:6 states "By loving kindness and truth shall sin be atoned."

Now is the time.
Don't miss the precious opportunity of Yom Kippur...
to experience the joy of positive transformation through mussar living!

May this be a merit for you on the holy day of Atonement.
May you have a meaningful fast.



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