Time’s Up: TorahCycle Bo


MiketzWay down deep in most of us is a hurting, a wounding to heart or soul, self-esteem or sense of self, that has brought us to this moment. It’s caused damage along the way, but also brought us to the knowing, both painful and liberating that we’ve reached the point of no return. It’s time to make a decision that will turn that painful it around, whatever your own special it is.

Remember the owwies of childhood, and your ambivalence about both wishing them gone and wanting to touch them? Change comes if you’re willing to dig deep enough to find and touch your inner sore place. You’ll know it by the way it feels: unresolved and always asking for something, perhaps attention, food, or love.

The source isn’t necessarily something that was done to you. It could have started when you failed to step up and take action or responsibility. It’s almost certainly something for which you have not yet forgiven yourself or another. Omission or commission makes no difference. What you most need to let go of  is its hold on you, on how it defines and organizes your story of life.

Confession. During a recent snow-enforced confinement I played Angry Birds (an addictive game of digital slingshot). There’s one bird on reserve (that acts like a neutron bomb) to use when you’ve failed once too many frustrating times at knocking down the targets.

It would be great to have such a ready tool for ourselves, when we’ve gotten stuck doing our emotional homework. Launch the mighty eagle; blow away all your failures and equivocation.

Our inner pharaoh has said Yes/No, Yes/No, Yes/No once too often. Time’s up. It’s time to fling that mighty eagle at yourself.

As silly as it sounds, some of my biblical imagery goes back to the classic 50’s movie, The Ten Commandments. After the last plague, the killing of the firstborn, the pharaoh who’s said Yes/No nine times prior stands holding his beloved son, his face a portrait of anguish, remorse, and regret. Nothing will make that boy alive again.

With luck you won’t need to go through such deep loss to make progress. But the stark and simple clarity that it’s time now to make changes is an important and compelling insight.

You cannot change the past. You can wish it undone, or pretend it was not so. You can’t erase the hurting. But you can transcend it. Can make your future different than your past. Use the energy you spent being angry, or fearing pain will happen again, to make changes, getting out of the narrow places that have confined and identified you for far too long.

The Jews are chased out of Egypt. You have the luxury of choice. To saying Yes to you and to joy.

We’re blessed this year to have this reading come at the transition between old year and new. A time when many of us make pledges about how we want to behave differently. If you make only one resolution, make it to live free of the pain of the past, and to live with greater awareness about what really matters to you in the year to come.

Remember, Forget, Remember: TorahCycle Ki Tzeitzei

KiTzeitzeiWe’re instructed to obliterate the memory of those who have harmed us. And also never to forget what’s been done. A mental yoga pose at the high end and an anatomically impossible curse at the lower.

Nursing a memory of pain can keep you stuck in a place where it’s hard to get far past the hurting. Life can get calcified, organized around pain past and fear of pain future.

Virtually all of us have been hurt in ways that’ve left emotional scars. Often these impact our behavior in ways that disproportionately magnify their original impact. Like a plant growing towards the sun we lean unevenly to one side, trying to avoid the darkness and hurt, or, worse, repeating the cycle.

We’re left off balance, a stance which might be okay in good times, but leaves us vulnerable when life goes askew, especially when something gets tangled in the roots of our history.

We may look like we’re here. But too often we’re measuring our lives by the past, instead of being present, being in the now, in ways that might make us happier. Like alcoholics cradling a bottle: knowing it’s causing damage, but craving the familiar oblivion we hope will keep the demons at bay.

No wonder this reading comes early in our time of t’shuvah, what Rabbi Simon Jacobsen calls “A time of regret, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A time to return to pristine beginnings. To discover our true self, and the divine spark at the core of our soul.”

T’shuvah is coming home to your true self, from wherever you’ve been and whatever you’ve been hiding from. Hiding, btw, can take various forms: from depression to Type A success. From substance addiction to fierce piety.

T’shuvah is about acknowledging everything that’s happened on your path, and about opening the door to forgiveness as well. Eyeball to eyeball with capital T Truth, as best as you can, without judgment, anger, self-pity, or fear.

It can be hard both to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. We may be haunted by victimization or by having hurt others, each conjoined with guilt and/or shame. Hard enough to forgive self for hurting other, let alone forgiving those who have hurt us.

It’s tough juggling. Never forgetting what happened but obliterating the memory of the ones who hurt us. Re-opening wounds to clean them out. Trying to recreate trust in the universe. Believing it will offer us blessings as well as trauma.

This period is the gateway to the High Holidays, a time when we start a new year, and a month later reach the end of the Torah. We’ll reroll it, and begin the cycle again with Genesis. A new beginning. The next you, trying to live better and happier, without repeating the mistakes of the past.

None of us gets it right in any one try. Our lives are an ongoing process of cleansing and healing. We do the best we can, hoping for progress. During this time of return. And in every moment of now.

Exercise: Identify the patterns you’ve generated in response to a core hurt. Ask yourself and your guides how you can lighten and change its hold on you.