The Sweetness of Tikun Hamiddot Part 2

11 09 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

 

Elul: The Sweetness of Tikkun Hamidot Last week, we described a process of self-discovery which should lead us to perfecting our midot, character traits.

 How do we refine our middot?

 The Baal Hatanya recommends meditating on ones deeds and where they stem from. Find a time to talk to Hashem, open yourself up to Him, let yourself feel regret and yearning to be nurtured only by his goodness, so that your character is directed towards where you want to go.

The Rambam’s plan of action involves identifying your bad middot. Do a replay in your mind’s eye, revisit the places you’ve been, be yourself, and see the gap between where you should be and where you are now. Then plan significant small concrete steps that will help you narrow the divide. You are a baal teshuva as soon as you start on the path to return, not when you finally succeed. Repentance itself draws you closer.

Another method is cheshbon hanefesh (self-introspection). You know the middah you need to work on. If you’re aware of what doesn’t work, don’t try the same thing again. Read up on the problem, listen to a tape, speak to a mentor, and try to find a new approach. Deduce it to one sentence and then repeat it many times so that it becomes part of your self -conscious. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Did I live up to the motto?” Divide a page in seven boxes for each day of the week. Mark off where you failed every day. If you do this conscientiously, you’ll notice the marks dwindling because subconsciously we hate failing. Keep it up for a year so that it becomes a part of you. You can do this with a mentor who might recommend readings and offer guidance. You can also join a group. Members get together and select a mussar text to study that is relevant to a specific middah. Then a particular act of improvement is chosen for the week. Participants share their failures and victories. You’re there to encourage each other, not to criticize.

A fourth and final method is hisbodedet and hisbonenut. Find time every day to think about who you are, what Hashem has given you, and how you can best use it. Speak to Hashem. The first few minutes will be difficult but push yourself to continue onward for at least five minutes, and it’ll get easier. The more you open yourself to Him, the more He’ll open up to you. The more freely you talk to Him, the more aware you’ll become of Him throughout the day. This awareness will change you and in turn your middot, without you even knowing it.

Elul is a time of love. The King is in the field. He’s close to us and we can ask Him for almost anything. However we cannot be forgiven by Hashem unless we ask forgiveness from the people we’ve wronged. Part of cheshbon hanefesh is recalling what’s lacking in our relationship with others. The people we tend to treat worst are the people we’re closest to. We must take note of what our patterns are and commit to change. Choosing what we want to be and clearing out the accumulated dross, is part of the process. Asking for forgiveness requires honesty. It means remembering the things we’ve done. Our goal is connection beyond the limitations of this world.

May it be a wondrous, uplifting, Elul.

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