At a recent gathering of community leaders, I spoke about two approaches to life and to change: The traditional rabbinic approach to Rosh Hashana, in which we feel remorse or guilt and work to improve our actions vs. the wisdom of Thomas Leonard, a past leader in personal and executive coaching who wrote “See how perfect the present really is. Especially when it is clearly not.”
Where should we start with the change we want in our lives, then: From a place in which we feel incomplete or from a place in which we feel complete? According to the Chasidic leader Simcha Bunim of Peshischa (1765–1827), we actually start in both places. He spoke of how each person must have two pockets, with a note in each. When one feels down and depressed, s/he should reach into the pocket for the note which says "For my sake was the world created." [Mishna Sanhedrin]. And when one feels above it all and haughty, s/he should reach into the other pocket, and for the note: "I am but dust and ashes."[Genesis 18].
Both ideas represent truth, and both represent our starting points at the High Holidays. We are strikingly mortal. Yet at the same time, the world was created for each and every one of us.
Our world and our lives contain continuous challenge. We find ourselves riding a roller coast of ups and downs: emotionally, financially, and often in our careers and relationships. What the Hasidic story teaches is the need for balance. We recognize our power and our limits, our strengths and our vulnerabilities. And we use all of who we are to balance ourselves and to make ourselves, our families, our communities and our world better in the year ahead.
May you and yours be blessed with a shana tova u’metukah, a Happy and Sweet New Year,
The Notorious R.A.V.