Categories: Wednesday ripples 2 Comments

The Return to Our Best Self

Every once in a while we need to unclutter.  Seasonally, or as the need arises, we unclutter closets, drawers, sheds, garages, basements, attics…you get the idea.  Even our computers need to be defragged.

So it only makes sense that our souls also need uncluttering.  That’s what the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur (Sept. 18-19th) is about: defragging our souls.  This Day of Atonement gives participants a chance to repent, though my friend, Rabbi Birnham, suggests ‘repent’ is perhaps better understood as a “return” (teshuva) to our best self.

When we de-clutter a shed, for example, we make it easier to move around.  It’s the same for our soul.  Certain practices help us notice what’s cluttering our heart or weighing on our mind that we may not fully realize but is restricting love, peace and joy to move around within and through us.

In the 12th century, the great scholar, Maimonides, taught four practices for “return”:

  • Recognize what you’ve done that hurt someone or created suffering in some way
  • Regret the action — in addition to seeing the fault, one must feel it
  • Resolve not to do that again
  • Repair what was broken, as best you’re able

Aware of the pull of habit and the rigid tendencies of our character, Rabbi Birnham added one more:

  • Repeat…not!

This is nothing new to those involved in a 12-Step program which includes the need to do a fearless moral inventory, make a confession, and do what one can to make amends.  It’s hard, of course, but when engaged with a sincere heart, incredibly freeing.

Yom Kippur isn’t in our tradition, but these practices certainly are. With a connection to our Jewish roots, all of us are invited to return to our Source.   

“Rather than allow ourselves to be burdened by regret for our past misdeeds,

we must strive to develop the inherent goodness

which lies hidden in our souls…”

Rabbi Joseph Stern

Comments (2)

  1. Hi, Dan!

    Thanks for the article. I like and support the concept/insight the article is proposing. I believe it is healthy for us to regularly do the decluttering. I will share your article with friends. Before I say “bye,” I have a question to ask you: Was that a picture of your office now??? Just kidding …

  2. Ah, Gani! You know my office too well. I take solace in a quip by Einstein, “If a cluttered desk indicates a cluttered mind, then an empty desk…?”

    Great to hear from you and may we all find freedom to move in our de-cluttering practices!

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