Sunday, September 21, 2008

The calming effect of a cheshbon hanefesh [self-accounting]

I have been in a lot of turmoil over the past couple of weeks.

Part of that turmoil came from anticipating today’s date – the third yahrtzeit of a beloved friend. It doesn’t help that the calendar is the same this year, as it was when he was killed in a car crash three years ago. It was a Shabbos, the Shabbos before Selichos, just like today. I walked past his house today. I remember every detail like it was happening right now. I’ve been dreading this day for weeks.

And part came from the doings of my own foolishness. I am exposed to lashon hara all the time, listening to people’s complaints about other people and about institutions and telling myself that I can’t accept these words at face value – and I’m usually pretty good at it. But this week I listened to someone and it sank in as Truth, and the result in my own actions was very ugly. It will take quite a bit of time and effort to get past this political mess.

And part of the turmoil, of course, came from this being Elul, and from working on speeches and classes, etc, as we have discussed, and from going without sleep in order to get all of that done.

And part came from anticipating tonight’s job of doing a cheshbon hanefesh, accounting for my mistakes of the past year and of past years, apologizing and repenting and trying to figure out how to move on from there.

Well, tonight, while waiting for chatzot [halachic midnight] and Selichot, I wrote up my accounting… and the surprising result was a real feeling of calm, my first in a while.

I looked at my list from last year, and – as always – had very, very little to remove. And I had a couple of items to add. So the calm doesn’t come from any sense that I’ve done better than in the past.

It doesn’t come from feeling, “I haven’t gotten much worse,” either.

For the most part, it just comes from feeling much more under control, much more like I know what I am doing, what I still have to do. I feel like I understand where I have messed up, and what I can do about it.

I still have to work on my list of תקנות for this year, things I plan to do differently, to reduce my problems and flaws. That will come over the next few days, I hope.

And then, Gd-willing, the וידוי (personal admission of sin) and, we hope and pray, an inscription and sealing for a good year.


  1. Part of that turmoil came from anticipating today’s date – the third yahrtzeit of a beloved friend.

    This year I celebrated the tenth yahrtzeit of a dear friend as well.

    The sense of loss has never gone away, but this year it was particularly poignant. So much has happened since we lost him.

    All I can say is that we did our best to be thankful for the time we had and what we learned from him.

    But I'd be lying if I didn't say that there weren't some moments of anger and frustration.

    So much lost potential.