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Our Personal and Professional Selves - Four Weeks of Elul, Week 2

08/09/2021 01:29:32 PM


This Shabbat brings us into the second of the four weeks of Elul as we continue the work of cheshbon hanefesh, or the inventory of our souls. We spend time looking closely at our relationships, actions, thoughts, and deeds, and evaluate who we have been and who we have become. The goal is to enter into the High Holy Days feeling ready to confront the truth of our actions - prepared for the process of teshuvah (repentance/returning). 

Last week, we explored our communal selves with Rabbi Hyatt. This week we turn to our professional and personal relationships. The Jewish tradition places a strong emphasis on moral and ethical behavior in interpersonal relationships. Large sections of the Torah are devoted to imploring us to carry a sense of fairness into every variety of interaction – familial, communal, ritual, and professional. The core of this week’s Torah portion – Shoftim (Judges) – highlights this very commandment. Shoftim famously charges us – “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). And yet, the surrounding text advocates not for activism, but for balance, wisdom, and care in every dimension of our lives. The justice expressed and commanded here compels us to bring a sense of morality, equality, and compassion into all of our relationships – personal and professional.

As we approach our 2021 High Holy Day season and reflect on the relationships in our lives, many of our personal and professional relationships may have shifted or been stressed by the current - and continuing - public health crisis. While we have moved through this experience together as a community, we know that as individuals, we have shouldered the burden of handling the daily reality of our changed lives. We have spent more or less time with certain family and friends, worked in new and different ways with colleagues and clients, and constantly evaluated the nature and priority of every interpersonal connection. Many of us have navigated and weathered sensitive and difficult conversations about our own perspectives and comfort levels in this ever-changing environment.

Sometimes, we brought our best selves to these interactions. We were fair, balanced, calm, and compassionate.

Sometimes, we were not.

During the month of Elul, we have the opportunity to review these moments and perhaps reach out to one another.

With these ideas in mind, we consider the following questions about our personal and professional selves:

  1. Have I been fair in my relationships, both personal and professional? 
  2. Have I taken part in any business or personal transactions this past year that were against my religious, moral, or ethical principles? 
  3. Have I taken advantage of those who are vulnerable to me, or intentionally/unintentionally abused my positions of power? 
  4. Have I ignored or been impatient with those I love the most? 
  5. Are there people I have wronged that I need to ask to forgive me? 
  6. Will I be able to forgive those who come to me to ask for my forgiveness? 
  7. For whom am I responsible, and have I done enough to care for each of them?

As we head into this second week of Elul, may we all recognize the essential nature of the relationships in our lives – personal and professional. May we use this season to appreciate one another and to challenge ourselves to reach out where repair is warranted. 

Justice, justice, shall we pursue. 

I hope to see you virtually tomorrow night, Tuesday, August 10th, at 7 p.m. as we continue this month of Elul together.

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Shabbat Shalom, 
Cantor Elizabeth Sacks 

Mon, September 26 2022 1 Tishrei 5783