Monday, August 23, 2010

The Sparkle of a New Beginning

In general, I do not reflect on my Judaism or my beliefs in a more spiritual way.  I don't normally feel the need to, so this post will be out of the ordinary for me.  But this summer has been full of many wonderful and challenging experiences and I've been very emotive, self-aware and reflecting a lot, which is a bit new for me. So this post is dedicated to reflecting, choices and new beginnings.

I recently happened across something for the month preceding the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) entitled The Jewels of Elul.  

What is Elul? 

It is the Hebrew month leading up to the Jewish New Year. During this month, it is a time for self-reflection. A inventory of the year, some might say, so that you can spiritually cleanse your mind, heart & soul of the previous year and ask your sins to be forgiven before and on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippor). 

What are Elul's jewels? 

They are little email notifications from a diverse group of people that are coming into my inbox every day until Rosh Hashannah begins. These emails have made me think, reflect and have influenced me to make a choice to take action - in this case, write a blog piece featuring one of the "Jewels". This Jewel comes from the 11th day of Elul from a Hassidic rabbi and psychiatrist. He wrote a wonderful piece on the choice God made to create humankind and the choices people have been privilege to make because of God's decision to create humans with the potential to live with freedom, awareness and choice.

Happy Birthday, Humanity by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
Contrary to the popular belief, Rosh Hashanah does not commemorate the creation of the world. Rather, it commemorates the sixth day of creation, the day Adam was created. It is of interest that in the creation of man, G-d said, “Let us create man?” Whose participation was G-d seeking? The Baal Shem Tov explained that both animals and angels were created in a state of completion. Angels do not grow at all, and although animals do grow, they do not voluntarily change themselves. The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly or a tadpole to a frog is programmed in their genes. They do not voluntarily make this transformation and are powerless to stop it.

G-d now desired a different creature, not totally physical like an animal nor completely spiritual like an angel. Rather, this was to be a creature that comes into the world completely physical, but by one’s sheer effort develops spiritually. For this, G-d required man’s participation. It is as if G-d said, “I can create you completely spiritual, but then you will be just another angel. I will create you physical, but with the potential to become spiritual by your own effort.” G-d was seeking man’s participation in his own creation. Therefore, G-d said to man, “Let us make man. I will give you the potential, and you must develop it.” Thus, Rosh Hashanah is our beginning.

If we develop only intellectually, with technologic and even scientific advancements, but neglect our spiritual development, we will be self-centered hominoids, with just a higher intellect than chimpanzees. To do our part in creation, to be the true human beings that G-d intended, we must be masters over our physicality rather than slaves to it. Spiritual development enables us to give of ourselves to others. Angels were created spiritual. Man has the ability to achieve a status higher than angels, because his spirituality is the result of his own efforts.

So, as the month of Elul continues on, I am looking through a new lens to reflect with, a view that allows me to see and look forward to a new beginning for this new year, continue to make choices for myself and work to achieve my greatest potential. Maybe I'll even throw in some spiritual growth. L'chaim to the birth of humanity, choices and to a sweet and happy new year. 

Disclaimer: This blog post does not reflect this author's Jewish leanings, practices or affiliation.  It is a mere reflection on life with a Jewish theme.

No comments:

Post a Comment