Have you been procrastinating on your high holyday prep?
Have you not found the peace that high holydays are supposed to bring?
Has elul not seemed to be as fulfilling as advertised?
There is an answer, a three-fold, last minute, easy answer for we procrastinators. As the rabbis of old put it:
ידוע שג’ דברים מבטלים גזירות רעות תשובה, תפילה וצדקה
3 little things can turn bad to better, heartrending to happy, defeat to victory.
It is so simple.
Here we go: 1st is Tshuvah, repentance. “Ok, I am sorry, good, done, next. “
Next is Tfilah, prayer. Good! “Dear G, please forgive me. “
Wow this is easy. What’s next?
Lastly is Tzedakah, charity. Great! I give a buck to somebody on the street and I am off the hook for another year.
Its, simple; Tshuvah, Tfilah and Tzedakah. Ok, now the evil decree is averted.
But it doesn’t work that way does it.
Let’s try again.
Tshuvah, its root meaning is returning. To what do we need to return? In this case returning has to do with balance. We need to return to balance. What needs balance: body, mind, heart and soul.
Our healers, doctors, family and friends are full of advice on how to balance our bodies; exercise, rest, diet, giving up bad habits. The goal is to balance all of those into a regimen of right living. Now all we have to do is do! Oy Vey, it’s not so easy and that’s just the beginning of balance. Returning is not such an easy thing, even on the simple physical level.
Our minds require balance as well. We read and discuss and argue and think. We try new things, learn a new language or skill to keep our minds open and flexible and active, balanced. We talk politics, philosophy, religion and science, opening our minds and learning and growing. The mind needs a good and varied diet as well as exercise and some discipline. With time, without care, our minds become off-balanced, sometimes even unbalanced. We need to return to balance.
But what of our hearts? Love is a great exercise for the heart muscle. If we can package compassion and caring and a little judgment for balance, our heart grow stronger. We strengthen our hearts by loving; loving our family and friends, our ideals tempered with practicality and caring for our planet. We love our culture and traditions. We love ourselves and life itself. In this way we bring our heart into balance with all that is. Well that is the ideal, but sometimes we fall short and these awesome days come to remind us to return to balance.
Sometimes in all our body work, mind work and heart work, we neglect the soul work. How do we exercise our soul and bring it into balance? We take a walk. Not a physical walk though that is a good idea too. No, we take a spirit walk, a quest, if you will. We stroll across the surface of our soul, what touches us, what moves us and we look at it rationally, honestly. But we never understand anything completely when we stroll on the surface. We must stop and delve deeper. After we philosophize and discuss, we quiet ourselves and meditate and pray and discover something beyond rationality. Taking a deep breath we step into the mystery. And in that step we discover something that was, something vaguely remembered. We are returning to the mystery that we visited so long ago. We return to the innocent openness in which we rediscover that mystery is the source of soul balance
Tshuvah, returning to balance is step one of the ‘easy process.’ Step two is Tfilah.
Tfilah is prayer but its root has to do with pleading a case. It has to do with judging a case. We judge ourselves on our merits. When we pray we look inward and call inward. We are not calling inward to our body; we are not calling inward to our minds nor our hearts. We call inward to our soul and the Godding that is found there. In prayer, we plead our case, we seek the mercy of the court and the court is the heavenly court that resides within our connective and connecting soul. If we find ourselves wanting, what are we to do? We must take action or our inner court will punish us through the body and mind and heart. Tfilah is, therefore, also the call to action. I must act on the good intentions with which I started the last year. For the end of that year is upon us. I must, as we are taught; strive after righteousness. In Hebrew that is צדק צדק תרדוף Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof. I must seek the realm of righteousness.
Tzedakah we think of as charity but more accurately it means righteousness and this is step three.
How many of us give to the beggar standing on the corner? Do you feel guilty as they look at you before you fumble for a dollar bill? Do you sweep away their thanks or blessings after you have given, hoping for the light to change so that you can avoid contact or conversation with them? There once was a Rabbi who approached a beggar but had no money. He said to the beggar; “I am sorry my brother, but I have nothing to give you.” The beggar responded; “What do you mean, you have already given to me. You called me brother.” There is more that we can do than hand over money to others. We can listen, we can care, we can be aware, whether it is the beggar on the street or the charitable organization, we can hear the human within and treat them as human. We can strive for the awareness of ‘tzedaka’-‘the right thing to do’. In our everyday life and in our conversations and interactions, we can “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” we can seek to follow a righteous path.
So those are the three simple steps to make this year better than last year. Ok, easy it is not. But every year we strive to move the bar a little higher. Every year we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again. We don’t have to succeed in our chase after righteousness; we merely have to do a little better than we have done. The definition of success is fall down 3 times, get up 4.
Tshuvah, returning to balance
Tfilah, looking inward and calling outward.
Tzedakah, chasing after the goal of being a little more righteous than we have been.