Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm in an "Elul" State of Mind

Just a quick note of thanks for the requests to update my blog. I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks with the kids at home from camp and not having started school. When I am busy I tend to put emotional issues and challenges aside. On one hand it's a positive because not facing my emotional truths allows me to be happier on the surface. On the other hand, I recognize its more of a band-aid and at some point the pain hits the fan and I have to look myself in the mirror once more.

Elul is here. This is one simple word. It is short and yet so powerful. Elul. I think "Elul" and my blood pressure rises. I say "Elul" and I feel my heart pounding in my chest. Boy did the yeshiva system do a job on me. First I will share what I think Elul should mean to me and then what it unfortunately does mean to me.

Elul is the precursor to the Yomim No'raim. Elul should be a time of introspection, a time of connection. As we have heard many times, Elul represents "Ani L'dodi, V'dodi Li", I am to my beloved and my beloved is mine. Elul should be a time to connect to Hashem and to others. The kitzur shulchan oruch says that there are actually 3 anagrams for Elul representing teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka. For tefilla, he mentions Ani L'dodi, V'dodi Li. He then refers to tefilla as "Rinas Dodim", a song of lovers.

Yes, davening is supposed to represent the beauty of our connection with G-d... Like lovers singing to one another. What a beautiful thought. Davening isn't supposed to be this dry,  empty and laborious exercise. It is meant to afford us a rewarding and deeply emotional experience which enriches our relationship with Hashem. To me this is what Elul should be about, developing this connection while reflecting on the positives and negatives of the year past. What took place this past year that caused distance and what allowed for connection?

While intellectually I understand this idea, I can never seem to internalize it emotionally. I went to yeshiva in which Elul was all about fear. It was this build up of dread starting with Rosh Chodesh Elul, continuing with late night and early morning selichos, rosh hashana and the crescendo of Yom Kippur. Our rabbeim took the easy road and preached fear and punishment. Death and gehinom. It was 40 days of intense feelings of guilt, worthlessness and self-condemnation. It was a time where every sin was magnified in my own eyes to a point where the burden was unbearable. I was 13 years old when this  Elul abuse started. It continued through my teenage years and even today deep into my thirties.

So how does this cycle change?

My therapist is fond of telling me to look at Hashem as a loving Zeide and not as an abusive father. What a beautiful idea. What sage advice. I want to feel this with all my heart. There are times when I get close to this goal but I just cant seem to internalize it. I feel like there is this wall between me and G-d that I can't seem to break down. Even at times in which I feel more connected and I feel His presence in my life I can't seem to tangibly feel His love. Even as I write this, my eyes are tearing up and my soul yearns for connection.

Wouldn't it be exhilarating going into this Rosh Hashana not in a state of dread, but rather with an intimate and unbreakable bond with the ultimate being? Wouldn't it be amazing walking into shul feeling like you are being hugged by a father who loves you completely and unconditionally?

Please share with me any ideas you might have. Please advise on Seforim you might recommend that can help me focus on the positive and develop this love. Please share ways that you might have faced similar challenges and learned to overcome them.

Thank you for reading.



4 comments:

  1. I used to view things as you do, but in recent years have adopted your therapist's advice--which really came quite naturally, if you would think about it. The truth is, there is not a single person in this world who has not been sinned and with the comfort of knowing that Hashem is Av Ha-rachamim, that we will be forgiven if we do teshuva. None of us knows how our tefilos will be answered, but we believe that whatever happens to us is for our benefit. We need to do our part, and daven hard for good things, and indeed, in the dinim section of my machzor, it exhorts us to leave shul on Rosh hashana with simcha, with the hope and understanding that Hashem will take care of us and give us what we need. Kesiva V'chasimah tovah.

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  2. Sweet Fest,

    It says that Tshuva, Tefilah and tzedaka maverin et roa hagazarah. It does not say it removes the decree but the evil of the decree. We are all dealt a hand of cards. The hand is dealt, the way we play the hand is up to us.
    Guilt is religions best friend. All guilt does is to make us feel bad and to repeat the same sin over and over again. We are all big boys and we know better. We do not have to subscribe to the fear, brimstone and fire that was taught to us. I want you to father yourself. Talk to little Fest. Tell him how special he is. Tell him that you feel his pain. Show little Fest the compassion and love he deserves. Talk to him the way a Father and the way our loving G-d would talk to him. The way for you to bring good into this world is for you to forgive yourself. You cannot forgive others unless you forgive yourself. I only know a little about you. You are so courageous to share this blog. It has helped me. I bet you help many people and are so good to so many. You have been through so much pain. Enough.
    I go to Carlebach and I dance on Kol Nidrei night. This Elul be the beloved to yourself.

    Please be good to yourself and cut yourself some slack.
    Josh

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  3. Thank you for the kind comments Josh and as always for your sensitivity. I really appreciate it. It gives me strength to know that I am helping you with the blog. I will work on the points that you give me and let you know how it goes.

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  4. Your blog makes me feel like I am not alone. I know that I have made tremndous sacrafices. I am gay and married. I wonder at times what it would be like to be so called normal. I have close friends and I am envious of them. How lucky they are not to have to carry secrets. I thank Hashem for the good in my life (3 wonderful children and a devoted wife) but also for the challenges. I know that the challenges are given to me to learn and grow from. I am not Hashem and I will never suggest that I know the reason for things. However perhaps the fact that I am gay and spiritual is given to me to learn compassion for others. Would I be compassionate if I did not experience what I have? Would you write this blog and offer the help you have given to me, making me feel that I am not alone? I would think not. So I thank Hashem not only for the good but for the difficult too. Perhaps I see being gay as a blessing. My gayness has wonderful sides to it. I believe it gives me a sensitivity, creativity and openess that others do not have. In any event I do not get to choose my parents and whether I am gay or not. It is. So I have 2 choices. One being to have it and be miserable or the other is to have it and embrace it.
    All I know is that your blog makes me want to give you a big hug and to send all the love and kindness your way.
    Josh

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