Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer and Spirit

I read a facebook post this week which stated that Elul and August are contradictory months. He went on to explain that August in Israel is about vacations, beaches, everything material, while Elul is about teshuva, repentance, everything spiritual, hence a contradiction!

I beg to differ.

I believe that not only is vacation time a necessity for your mind and body, but also for your soul. Let me illustrate with a story which just took place.

I was driving with my wife in Hadera last night on our way home from dinner. She decided to put on the Waze (GPS navigations system) to direct us through streets foreign to us, though she had an intuition to make a right. At the last moment Waze told us to go straight and we got terribly lost because the GPS signal got lost. After ten minutes of driving in circles we decided to go back to the original street and start over. From there we were home in no time!

Moral of the story—sometimes listen to your gut and even fancy positioning systems are a distraction from your inner compass, and when you find yourself lost, even due to seemingly advanced information, go back to the roots, recharge and go with your gut!

Sometimes we get stuck in the spiritual mire. Business, distractions, guilt-ridden actions, numbness, or a combination of all these feelings leave us spiritually dysfunctional. Even when we were being led by seemingly advanced ideas and theories, sometimes we just get stuck.
We need a reboot. Take some time off, spend it hiking, breathing the fresh air, swimming in the sea or simply dedicating yourself to family, a good book, some choice Ice cream and without realizing it your body, mind and soul are recharging and recalibrating—ready to focus on the future.

Elul is not a month about teshuva (repentance), every month should be about repentance. Instead Elul is about refocusing, removing distractions which the year’s end might have brought and preparing oneself for the new year.

Every day in our shemoneh esreh (daily amidah prayer) we recite a blessing on repentance—teshuva. Here is the Hebrew followed by the English translation:

השיבנו אבינו לתורתך וקרבנו מלכנו לעבודתך
והחזירנו בתשובה שלמה לפניך
ברוך אתה ה' הרוצה בתשובה

Return us our father to Your Torah and bring us closer, our king to Your service
And return us on a complete path of repentance before you
Blessed are you God, He who desires repentance.

The most intriguing word in the paragraph is שלמה, complete. What does it mean a complete path? Is there an incomplete path? Perhaps the rabbis were trying to teach us that repentance is not an end but a constant recalibrating of values, ideals and reality. Our job is to make sure we are on the path of teshuva in our lives, we leave it to God to get us to that perfect place—תשובה שלמה!

May we continue to enjoy our vacations, recharging our bodies, recalibrating our minds and rejuvenating our souls.