As I prepare for Yom Kippur (and similar with preparations to the recently-passed holiday Rosh Hashanah), I look back and see where I need to do some teshuvah, repentence, for behavior, actions, thought, speech, etc., that could have been done differently. A lot of the time I can get stuck in a rut, saying “I can’t believe I did that,” and “I’m so dumb.” I really like to engage in self-deprecating speech, thoughts and action. It’s almost as if the more I dislike myself and act this way toward myself, the more comfortable I get because I don’t have to have any decent standards, because I’m not decent. No, it’s not “it’s almost as if,” it is!
Contrary to my popular belief, the goal of evaluating my life and doing proper teshuvah is not in order to devalue myself, but rather to find ways to value myself even more than before and for others to find value in what I can bring to the world.
A few days ago, I was talking to my married neighbor who has two children. She said to me how she is in awe of what I do as a mother who is also in school and also an employee. She said she doesn’t know how I can do it all by myself. The first thought that popped into my mind was that she was saying this just to be nice. But what would have forced her to say this?! Absolutely nothing, that’s what. She was actually being sincere! Once I understood this, a smile took over my face. I began to see what I am doing right and the positive things about being the person I am today, single mother and all.
Recently, I read that mediation is for yourself and that prayer is for G-d. I know, prayer and meditation seem to be awfully similar, and sometimes I can even use these terms interchangeably. Some define meditation as something Buddhist monks spend a great deal of their time doing. Others define it as time to focus on a specific tefilah, prayer. Others just focus solely on the individual letters making up a tefilah. All of these answers are correct, and it depends on what helps you attain the end goal of meditation.
To compliment this statement that I read, I was privy to a discussion about meditation last night. The more I listened, the more I realized how true this statement is. For each person – who all meditate in a non-prescribed way – felt better connected to G-d afterward and were able to communicate straight to Him as they finished with the tefilot of their choice.
Meditation helps me to prepare to connect with G-d. It allows me to be in a state of bittul, self-nullification, and to carry out acts that G-d would like it if I would do. This includes praying to Him with the utmost respect, concentration and kavanah, intention. Beyond readying myself for prayer, meditation also helps to nullify myself in order to be G-d’s messenger, and to carry His message to the world, rather than the message that I see important and fit for the day. We are all G-d’s messenger, we just have to seize this opportunity and listen to what His message is in order to carry it forth to all of His creations.
When I focus on what needs to be done, I can make positive choices for my family and my surrounding community. However, before meditation, it is hard for me to see outside of my personal struggles and all I want to do is propagate the misery I’m feeling when I can’t see out of this hole. Always striving to be able to do the next right thing seems like it should be easy, but many times I allow myself to get in the way and I need to find a way to kick myself out of the way! I’ve found that meditation accomplishes this in the most painless way.
During Rosh Hashanah services, I felt that my davening was taken to a different level than it normally is. I felt this true connection, this nonstop direct flight to G-d from me in my chair in the women’s section. I felt the true power of these words that are so eloquently picked to be in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, special siddur for the High Holidays. Why was this davening so special to me? Why did it take on such a different vibe than during normal times of tefilah? I had meditated for the entire month of Elul (and continue to do so more intensely than normal during aseres yemei hateshuvah, the ten Days of Repentance) and was finally ready to do some serious tefilah for G-d. Not for myself, but for G-d.
G-d doesn’t need me to daven with such kavanah, but He wants me to, and I want to be able to do what He wants of me. Hour after hour of High Holiday services, I’m telling Hashem simply this – how I want to right what I’ve done wrong and to continue to cleave to Him as He has directed the Jewish people. It feels really good when my daughter apologizes to me after doing something I repeatedly told her not to do. This is so basic and on such a low level compared to each Yid’s connection to G-d. I can only imagine how special it makes G-d feel to have more than just an apology, more than just a few tears when I realize how bad I’ve been, more than “bad to good.” This is all just more. This is so much more it’s on a level I can’t comprehend, one that is full of spiritual juju and powerful vibes to elicit this innate connection Yidden have to their neshama, and in turn to G-d.
To put it more simply: I felt a physical and spiritual change when I realized that this davening is not for me, but in fact for G-d. While G-d doesn’t need anything, He appreciates when we walk in His ways and it helps to strengthen that finite-infinite bond that we have with Him.
Now I’m re-evaluating my year. I see the positive in it, and I also see missed opportunities to connect with G-d. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t do right, say right, think right, etc., I’m focusing on how I can change these missed opportunities into taken opportunities. Even though the events are still the same (I’m not a time-traveler!), the way I approach them are different when I realize that I’m doing life not for my benefit, but for the benefit of G-d and to ultimately create this world into His dwelling place.
Keeping in mind that I am constantly working toward creating this world into His dwelling place seems easy at first, but with a second glance it’s easy to see how life can get in the way of this thought. When I can realize I’m not going down the path I need to be in terms of thought, speech or action, the best thing I can do is to recognize it. Once I recognize this, then I can take steps to correct it, such as meditating and subsequently strengthening that ability to connect with G-d. All within a split second.
When I get into this rut of “I’m not good enough,” I can recognize it, stop, breathe, meditate, and continue to connect with G-d. As I heard a wise person say, if I feel that G-d is far away, it’s me that’s moving because He is always there. Meditation is one way to move back toward G-d.
May we receive many brachos this year, grow closer to G-d and may merit the coming of Moshiach NOW!
G’mar chasima toivah! May you finally be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.