I am writing this article on a Midwest Express flight enroute from New York to Milwaukee. I have never enjoyed flying. Despite the fact that statistically it is assumed to be the safest mode of travel, I like to keep my feet on the ground. It gives me the illusion of control.
With air travel, I feel vulnerable, suspended in the air, despite the reassuring laws of aerodynamics. It reiterates with certainty the message that I am in God's hand and at His mercy.
Intellectually, I realize this is the reality of our lives even as we assume mastery and move about manipulating and conquering the world. "Fill the earth and conquer it," was God's mandate to mankind at the very outset of creation. The implicit challenge in this command describes a very tenuous balance; to understand that although we are commanding conquerors, creators, and manipulators, still the whole of our capabilities stems from the Infinite Source in the absence of which we are nothing and have nothing.
The approaching High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, should compel us to pause the rigorous efforts to control our environment, and rededicate our efforts to this awareness, the "coronation" of God as King and Master of our personal universe.
Yet another reflection from my recent trip might be instructive for our pre-holiday introspection. The zipper on my carry-on case, which has persevered through much duress, broke on this trip. Reluctant as I am, at this mature stage in life, to part with anything that has accompanied me for so long, I went into a luggage store to see if my bag could be repaired. They advised me that I would be better served discarding it and investing in a new one.
That's okay when dealing with "things." But what if our inability to let go extends beyond the "suitcases" in our lives? What if we retain excess psychological baggage and patterns of behavior, such as self-deprecating beliefs of our inherent worth? What if we unnecessarily debase our competence, goodness, etc? Or perhaps, we maintain a negative attitude toward others; we are unfairly critical and disparaging of those around us.
An objective analysis of ourselves is especially germane at this time of year. Our sages advise that in our pursuit to improve our behavior, this period in the calendar is especially propitious. Heavenly assistance is most obtainable and beneficial to those who choose to access it.
REPAIRING AND STRENGTHENING
A wedding took place many generations ago. The two sets of ,mechatunim (in-laws) gathered for the celebration. One of the proud fathers, a rabbi of prestigious lineage, arose, and consistent with his family's custom for such occasions, proceeded to enumerate at great length the names of all of his distinguished ancestors and the magnificent contributions they made to Jewish life.
When he concluded, the other father arose and said, "My ancestors were not rabbis; they were simple tailors and craftsmen, but they too left a legacy. They taught that we are obligated to mend that which is broken and to strengthen that which is whole."
The first father embraced him, exclaiming, "I didn't realize that you had such wonderful lineage!"
Coronating the Almighty as our sovereign during this season requires us to scrutinize our daily activities and interactions, identifying that which needs to be mended and that which needs to be fortified.
My husband has suggested that the medical community's much-touted necessity for an "annual physical" examination should help us appreciate the even more critical and imperative need for an "annual spiritual." Rosh Hashana needs to find us ready with our spiritual luggage in hand.
Some areas to consider might be:
- Our relationship with our Creator, our Source. Can it use enhancement -- i.e. more Torah learning, and greater attention to the quantity and quality of our quiet time to meditate, to pray, to connect.
- Our interpersonal relationships with parents, spouse, children, friends, and community. This might require that we subdue our egos and let go of negative attitudes -- committing to guarding our tongues, being gentler, kinder, more compassionate, loving, understanding, etc.
We all have work to do. We may come from different places -- different points of departure, and we may be at different stages in our life's journey or on the spectrum of personal development and growth. Yet we are all heirs to the legacy of this season, which demands that we take a spiritual inventory in order to mend the torn and strengthen the whole.
May it be a productive and meaningful journey into the New Year for us all.