By Rabbi David Jaffe
There is nothing wrong with you, there never has been and there is nothing to fix. What are the implications of that?
These words were said to me by a wise woman during a counseling session earlier this summer and I’ve been contemplating them ever since. With the arrival of Elul, I am wondering how this perspective relates to our practice of Teshuva/Return and our work of Tikkun Olam. Tikkun means fixing and repairing. The reality of rampant oppression and environmental destruction clearly points to the need to change things. But what if there is nothing to fix?
As someone involved in social change activism, as well as personal growth work, for my entire adult life, the idea that nothing needs fixing is quite jarring. But something also resonates as true that, in a deep way, things are whole and complete. The idea and practice of alignment could be a way towards holding both the reality of how far our world is from an ideal and the belief that we and the world are fundamentally okay.
According to Oxford Languages, the definition of alignment is, “Arrangement in appropriate relative positions.” When something is not in right relationship with the people and things around it, it is out of alignment. This concept relates to the world of the spirit as well. What does it mean to be in right relationship relative to Hashem/The Living Presence, or the universe?
A core tenet of Judaism is that we humans are made in the Divine Image and that our soul is pure (Elohai Neshama Sh’netata bi/A pure soul You have given me - morning liturgy). A pure soul. Sounds like nothing needs fixing. Imagine that pure soul as a point. Another pure soul is a second point. In terms of geometry, the distance between those two points is a line. That line symbolizes the relationship between the two points (souls). It is that line, or relationship, that can get messed up and needs Tikkun/fixing/repair. How we relate to each other, regarding power, positionality, and other factors is where we shine or where things get really messed up. THAT is what needs fixing. There may be nothing wrong with any of us, but there certainly is something wrong with the way we relate to each other, the natural world, and Hashem/The Living Presence/Spirit that needs realignment.
Elul is time for taking an honest look at how we can live in alignment on all those levels. There is nothing to “get” from outside ourselves. There is nothing broken. It’s just that parts of ourselves and how to live in right relationship with others gets obscured by a combination of things that happen to us and our own decisions. Multiply this dynamic billions of times, and we get the out-of-whack, out-of-alignment, oppressive world we live in.
Rosh Hashana is called in the Torah Yom HaZikaron - the day of re-member-ing. Elul is also a time of remembering what right relationship could look like. "Ani l’dodi v’dodi li/I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” is the verse from Shir HaShirim whose first letters spell Elul.
There is nothing wrong with you and you do not need fixing.
What are the implications of that for you and the world this Elul and Rosh Hashana?
Chodesh tov, David