Thursday, August 15, 2013

Forgetting for the Good

It's not easy, but every once in a while, when I put on a podcast to keep me company, I pass over the favorite entertainments, This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Moth, and I listen to something that's good for my soul.  This time it was a dropbox shiur (lesson) by the incredibly awesome and gevaltic R' Laibish Hundert. 

One of the reasons it is hard to get myself to do this is because I LOVE the escape of mostly mindless podcasts.  I get to escape and feel like an intellectual NPR elitist, which is way better than a mindless reality TV watcher.  These podcasts take away the repetitive, mundane, mind-numbing pain of doing the same chore over and over again.  Like dishes and laundry.  Things you have to do, ALL the time, but no one really appreciates.  So you don't get a whole lot of validation.  And I LOVE validation.  When you garden, you get the validation of everyone who eats your food (wow, you grew this?  It's so fresh!), plus you get food.  And food is ALWAYS validating.

The other reason it's hard is because I usually feel moved, from deep in my kishkas, to change something about my life when I listen to inspiring Torah lessons.  It stirs my soul and and awakens something that I routinely put to sleep with spiritual xanax.  Let's face it, sometimes it is just easier to say that I am angry or upset, or in a rest phase with my yiddishkeit.  I like to say I'm taking a breather.  It's not that I stop following halacha (though I may relax on certain things), it's that I take a break from pushing myself to take on more.  Just for a little bit.  A chance to ask the questions I need to ask.  To let things surface that I had pushed down.  A little break to let myself know that it's ok to be where I'm at.

But then along comes a great shiur, and WHAM! I need to connect to Hashem!  Now!  I need to learn more Torah and daven and do all the mitzvahs b'simchah! (with joy) NOW! 

It's a little manic.  I know.  So I go back to self medicating with a Netfilx movie.  But right now, in Elul, the King is in the field.  Mamesh, He's right here.  And if you've been to my house you know my window looks out over the field so He could be standing by the window, looking in, watching me watch my stupid movie and eat the cupcake I hid in the back of the fridge so my kids wouldn't find it.  And I can't have that.  Because soon it will Rosh HaShana and I will stand before Him and say what?  It's been a busy year, sorry I couldn't spend more time with You?  And He'll say, Nu?  I was watching you watch that movie, Tovah.  For those two hours you could've hung out in the field with me.  And had your cupcake too!  (See, I'm using "field" metaphorically to represent the inner space where my neshama connects to G-d.  I'm a writer so I can do that.)

Anyway, I am not condemning watching movies.  Ok, sometimes I get all self righteous and talk about how Hollywood is destroying our lives.  But then I need to watch the latest Wes Anderson flick.  (I picked something quirky and intellegent so you would think I'm sophisticated, but I couldn't wait to watch Pitch Perfect when it came out and begged my in-laws to let me play it on their on-demand for $4!  They let me 'cause they're awesome.)   But what I am saying is that it's one thing for me to accept where I'm at with Torah and yiddishkeit, which right now is this weird, love/hate, not so sure, but not unsure place where I allow my conflicted feelings to surface.  But it's another thing to avoid the longing because I am starting to accept myself as I am now.  Because with longing for more, can come feelings of judgement that there isn't "more."  That I am not doing more, connecting more.  That I am not more.

So I avoid it.

But like I said, Rosh HaShana is coming, and it's pretty hard to avoid that.  So I need to start my cheshbon hanefesh (accounting of the soul) now. 

But in this shuir, R' Leibish said an amazing thing.  He was teaching a Rebbe Nachman teaching, then went to Reb Nosson's Likutei Tefillot on that teaching.  (Rebbe Nachman wrote a book of lessons and his main disciple, Reb Nosson, wrote a book of prayers based on each lesson.  That in itself is an amazing example of real learning.)  And the prayer for this lesson went something like this: Please G-d, as I do this mitzvah, as I say this prayer, let me forgot all my aveirahs (transgressions) and wrong doings and just be in this moment.  Let me do this good deed as though I never did a thing wrong in my life.

Wow.  That is soooo powerful on soooo many levels.  We all have a past.  We all have a list of ways we could've done something better, ways we could be better.  But in THIS moment let it be as though I have no past and I am pure and coming to you with a whole heart.  Because if we see ourselves as bad how can we pray with goodness?  We will be questioning our worthiness.  Who am I speak to You?  Who am I to help another human.  Should I even bother davening today if I haven't all month?  Should I try to be nice to my husband when I've been so bitchy lately?  Should I really pay attention while making this brocha if I always mumble them?


I should.  And for this moment, let it be as though I ALWAYS say my brochas with kavana, pure intention.

And how much can I extend this lesson to EVERYWHERE in my life?  If I try harder to have a more peaceful relationship with my son, let me, in the moments I spend with him, let go of how I see myself as a mother: angry, resentful, impatient.  Let me just be here, as the mother I want to be right now.  Present, open and loving.  So what if I wasn't yesterday.  If I see myself as undisciplined and irresponsible, let me in this moment, while I am preparing to take on a new job, forget that and be this person for this moment.

G-d, as I approach you all month and into the holidays, let me approach you with the intent in my heart right now.  Not the history of failed tries to connect.  Not the disappointment in myself and disappointment in life that I hold deep within.  Let me forget all that just in this minute.   I am calling out to You and I am telling You that I do want to connect.  Now.

And if I go back to avoiding these deep longings tomorrow, that won't stop me from trying to be my best today.

Everybody, the King is the Field.  He is here.  Ready to connect.  If you weren't such a good Jew all year, well for this moment, forget.  Be in the beauty of this moment of connection.  Let your soul be stirred even if you have a history of burying those stirrings deep.  Pray that for this moment you forget the parts of the past that don't serve you.  Because in this moment, you are loved by Hashem.  Now.

  1. Torah podcasts.  Way to use the evil internet for Good!
  2. The clouds outside
  3. The watermelon dripping off my 2 year old's chin
  4. Recent visits of friends
  5. A little bit of homeschooling happened
  6. Learning to make cheese on Sunday!
  7. Discovering spotify.  Life forever changed

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