Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blogging Elul 5771: Reflections on our enemies

Today's blog entry is by student Rabbi Lisa Kingston.  Lisa was our rabbinic intern this Summer.  She is a fourth year student at Hebrew Union College, New York.  She delivers her Senior Sermon next Thursday morning during the morning service at the college.

Psalm 27:
The Eternal is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Eternal is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be terrified?
In my very guts came evil to gnaw and consume me,
But these my troubles, my enemies, stumbled and fell.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear;
Though war rise up against me, even then I will keep faith.

During the days of Elul it is traditional to read Psalm 27, an affirmation of God’s help and protection when enemies surround us. Today, we may understand it as a plea for God’s help in dealing with the enemies within us. These are the demons of our own true self who frighten us away from living the lives we want.

I think one of the largest demons that can consume us is self-doubt. A friend of mine is studying to be a psychologist and she told me of an interesting conference she recently attended. Instead of wearing traditional nametags, each person in the room was asked to write their biggest fear and wear it upon their chest. One might assume participants would share silly things like a fear of heights or spiders, but people took the exercise to heart and shared what really unnerved them. They shared fears of failure, fears of being a fraud, fears of not being able to help people in the way they hoped, fears of letting down family members, and fears that they were not worthy of their success. We all share fears like these even when we appear confident and successful.

            Don’t worry, you wont be asked to wear the badges of your fear publicly this year, but Elul is the time to try to name and face your fears. When you arrive to Rosh Hashanah services this year, try to have at least one fear you want to address written on your heart. Identifying what holds you back can begin your steps to teshuva.

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