We’re here. It’s already been four weeks; that is, we have spent four Shabbatot here in our new home. It’s certainly feeling homey now. The boxes are banned to outer corners so we don’t have to bump into them all the time, nor even deal with them. I am not in a hurry to get to those boxes, since they are basically ISHI’s books.
35 boxes of books.
I counted them in order to estimate how many bookshelves we need. You know you can Google that–how many books fit on a shelf. We need approximately 24 shelves. So now come the requests for handymen who can build us these shelves, and then comes the wait for the estimates.
Yes, we knew we would need to spend money on this side of the mountain. And realistically, there are always things that pop up that you would never have expected. Replacing our shower doors turned out to be much simpler (and less expensive) than we thought. Putting up fixtures is more complicated…wires that should be working are not; some are in the oddest places and makes access quite ridiculous. But the primary lists are getting whittled down, and other secondary things are taking their place.
And with all of this home improvement, we find ourselves also in the month of Ellul, when we are supposed to be getting ready for the New Year. Thus the title of this post; the need for some introspection. I can easily find many faults that I have to work on, really, much too easily. And there is a lot of negative in the world, as if I had to remind anyone…We have heard recently of too many people who are battling diseases of too many kinds, and the heart aches for each one.
With my tendency to go negative, though, I am working on looking at the positive. And I’m grateful that I’ve had a little nodding in this direction today from social media, no less.
The words “soul searching” or “confession” can be menacing. They usually remind us of that which is not OK, of that which we have to fix. But this week’s Portion, Ki Tavo, presents a different kind of confession: Vidui Ma’aser (confession upon tithing). After performing the instructions related to Ma’aser (tithing), one says a series of moving verses. Here is just part of this confession: “I have not turned aside from Your commandments nor have I forgotten any of them… I have obeyed the LORD my G-d; I have done everything You commanded me.” This is a positive kind of confession, in which one looks back on all the good things one did, and also talks about it.Rabbi Kook writes about it wonderfully: “A person needs to sometimes rejoice by expressing with his lips the good things that he did… Therefore we need the confession over the Mitzvot from time to time, in order to strengthen our heart in the path of G-d, just as we need the confession over transgressions”.Meaning, along with the confession over transgressions (“Ashamnu, Bagadnu… We have been guilty, we have dealt others treacherously…” and the entire confession of the Ten Days of Repentance) Rabbi Kook also talks about “confessing our Mitzvot”. One should sometimes confess one’s good deeds, because soul searching is not only about that which we need to fix. It is also a call to pay attention to everything that is good and beautiful, fixed and excellent – with us and with all those who surround us.
And then on Brainpickings, Maria Popova quotes Martin Seligman’s
“What-Went-Well Exercise,” also known as “Three Blessings” — based on the interventions he and his team at the Positive Psychology Center and the University of Pennsylvania have validated in the random-assignment, placebo-controlled experiments they have been conducting since 2001 to study changes in life-satisfaction and depression levels.
“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.”
So I will set down now to get into the habit, three blessings.
- Cats that can wander into our storage area because the door doesn’t close is a good thing, because they will take care of the mice. And the scorpions. And also the snakes. The guys who are fixing our doors let us know. And so did our gardener.
- Hiring one of our handymen, even though he is slower than others, is a good thing because we are helping pay for his wife’s acupuncture and alternative medicine for her cancer treatment. So I’m not looking at how he is putting in some of the things we asked.
- Our gardener is coming to lay down irrigation piping so we can plant things. Things will grow here. That is a blessing that is promising, but itself is enough.
And then reading about the importance of accepting negative thoughts? Icing on the Ellul cake.