Elul 5780 – Focus on the Good

We are well into the month of Elul, the month on the Jewish calendar when we typically spend time doing cheshbon hanefesh, examining our deeds, looking for things we did wrong last year, looking for character traits we need to mend. For a description, see my post on “Spiritual Accounting” for Elul.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have the koach, the energy, to beat myself up this year and look at my flaws. I’m actually doing a fairly good job of maintaining my mental health in these crazy times, but I also feel that doing that is a little bit like riding a bicycle with my hands off the handlebars – not very steady, have to keep moving, and it wouldn’t take much to knock me over.

I think we should all cut ourselves some slack with cheshbon hanefesh this year. It’s been a very strange time since March. There are so many external reasons we may be feeling out of sorts, have taken it out on others, have gotten angry, have been unproductive at work. 

My suggestion this year is that instead of looking for what we did wrong, let’s look for what we did right. In his famous teaching Azamra, Rebbe Nachman taught there’s a good point in everyone. Give people the benefit of the doubt, look for that good point, nurture it. Encourage it. Help the good point to grow, and don’t focus on the negative stuff.

Which is similar to what the famous management consultant, Peter Drucker, said: “Build on strengths.” Focus on what you’re good at and become even better at it.

As we approach the awesome Day of Judgment, judge yourself and others favorably, and let’s pray the Holy One judges us all favorably and cuts us some slack because of these crazy times!

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Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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