“Our principal task during the month of Elul is to search for and discover what’s good about ourselves.” So said Rabbi Miki Yosefi yesterday in a Mitchadshot (Women’s Renewal) workshop.
“We are accustomed to thinking that in the month of Elul we need to do serious stocktaking or soul-searching where we acknowledge our flaws and recognize the mistakes we have made. But Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains that, when looking within, it’s much more important to examine the goodness that we did not celebrate, the generosity that we did not extol. This is the fuel we need now as we approach the Days of Awe.
The way to properly awaken ourselves as the new year approaches is to seriously scrutinize our good deeds, to find time to give thanks for them and to be reminded that they are the expression of our true selves. This is not about pride or narcissism. At this time of year, everyone needs to answer the question: What is good about me? What is the light that I bring to the world?
Sculptures And Failures
Recently, I hosted a panel discussion at Sha’anan College, an academy for the training of religious teachers, in Haifa. Here are two thoughts raised by the college president, Professor Avi Levi.
“The Renaissance artist and sculptor Michelangelo once said regarding his work: ‘I see the sculpture embedded in the stone. It’s already there. I merely set it free.’ Actually, this is the essence of education, and the essence of the month of Elul: Phenomenal potential is hidden there, even if all we see is a coarse block of stone. We need only chisel away in order to uncover the beauty inside and allow it to be revealed.”
When I asked him what advice he would give to the next generation of teachers in Israel, Professor Levi gave advice that is appropriate for all of us:
“Our culture looks down on failure as if it must be avoided at all costs. I think that we need to know, at the outset, that we are going to fail. The biggest failure is to ignore failure. My approach is that failure guides me. Every day I ask myself what went wrong and how can I grow from that failure tomorrow. We have a tendency to ignore, to repress, and to cover up our mistakes. but as I said – this is our greatest failure Every failure can be a turning point and, b’ezrat Hashem, in the merit of our failures from 5782, 5783 will be a much more successful year.”