THE ELUL THAT VIBRATED IN MY POCKET
Parashat Ki Tavo
week my phone vibrated, and that phone call shook me up to the core. ” Hi. Rabbi Farhi, I need your help. This year’s Elul is all over the place. I am just too busy, lately, helping out at home, and it is nothing like the Eluls of past years. I am not making it for Selihot. I am not able to get to Seder at 9. My mind wanders during Elul prayers, as if its Purim. I failed the first two weeks of Elul. And, if I missed the first part of Elul, I know that I do not have a streak of forty days of teshuva! Please help!”
The truth is, that Elul is not about going berserk. It is about awareness of the severity of sin, and awareness of the opportunity to get close to G-d. Awareness that we all need to do Teshuva, in whatever way possible. That’s all.
Just as I was putting together my thoughts for this article, something amazing happened. As Daf Hayomi moves to Massechet Chagigah, I randomly opened the Tractate, and the first words my eyes saw almost made them fall out of their sockets.¬† Says Rabbi Chanina, son of Papa, ‘Anyone who does something that is forbidden, and regrets that he sinned, is immediately forgiven! As it says, They have not feared Me. But if they fear me after they sinned and they repent, they will be forgiven immediately!’ (Chagigah 5a) Why? Why if you realize or if you are aware of what you did, does G-d forgive? How does awareness help?
This week’s Parasha tells us about the Mitzvah of Viduy on Bikkurim. (Megillah 20b) Viduy is the proclamation that you did not leave tithes of your fruits back home, and you have properly dealt with Masser and Terumah. We know of another Viduy. The Viduy when someone bangs a fist on his heart and admits misbehaving. What is the connection between the two Viduys? Why are they both called Viduy? One is saying ‘I was responsible’, and the other is saying that I was not. It seems to be a contradiction.
To explain this, allow me first to introduce you to a simple coaching tool I have found very useful.¬† One of the biggest obstacles to tackle in relationship coaching is abuse.¬† The greatest example is verbal abuse. And the verbal abuse that does the most damage is from a person who does not realize that he/she is abusing. And the closer the abuser is to you, the more the abuser is important in your eyes, the deeper and more serious the damage. This is because, in this situation, your “guard” is down. You let the comment penetrate, or you allow the close person to raise his voice to you. By not standing up for yourself, you accept the abuse, telling your subconscious that you deserve derogatory comments. The closest person to you is yourself, and you may not be aware of the fact that you, yourself, are guilty of verbal abuse – to yourself! In order for a coach or therapist to help a person, the first first aid is to help him stand up to abuse from himself or from those whom he respects. This does not mean to attack in return, but, as Bibi Netanyahu said to the UN, “We have a red line, and we will not let anyone pass it”.¬† A person must have a red line and know where it is. So, how do we stop the abuser? Let us take, for example, a scenario where someone you love or respect is raising his voice or screaming at you. Just because you love and respect your loved ones, your partner, boss or sibling, it does not mean you can’t stand up for yourself. The problem is that most people do not know what to say, without making a counter attack, answering in the same tone. I will now reveal the secret-self-defense weapon, the four questions that you can ask. It does not matter how the person responds. Just ask the questions, and he will stop abusing. Guaranteed. One condition. You need to be calm and firm. And, the wording needs to be exact.
The first question is, “Do you realize that you are shouting at me?” or “Are you aware that you are insulting me by talking negatively about an important person or people in my life?”¬† Whether the person answers yes or no, it does not matter. Either way, he is now aware. The reason why most people do wrong is because they are not aware of what they are doing. The main question is Are you aware…, or Do you realize…
The reason why the wording needs to be exact is because AWARE and REALIZE are hypnotic words. Power Words. You can hypnotize someone, persuade someone, sell something to someone by using these two powerful power words. Are you aware of how much power you have just by inserting the word AWARE into questions? I am sure you realize now. If the person continues to scream, wait a little and then ask …
Question 2… Are you able to stop screaming at me? Again, it does not make a difference what they answer to that question. The main thing is that you have brought awareness, and that it could be the person is screaming at you just because he can’t stop screaming, not because you deserve to be screamed at. And, many times, the one who is screaming really, truly can’t stop. And if he continues to scream you are now ready for..¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Step¬† 3. If you can’t stop, I will have to… You need to think what you can use as a “threat”; it has to be something that the person does not want you to do and something that you will not regret. … I will have to close the phone.¬† … I will have to end this conversation. This lets the person know, realize and be aware,¬† that he has reached your “Red Line”.¬† And if he continues..
Step 4. Stand up for yourself and do what you said you were going to do. Show that you mean business, and that you have a red line. Then, the person realizes that he is dealing with a person, not a shmattah.
All this has to do with awareness. Now, back to Elul. The sinner is generally not aware of the same four things.¬† He is not aware that he is sinning. Or, he is not aware that he can’t stop, and needs to learn how to stop. Or, he is not aware what the punishment is. Or, he is not aware that G-d is serious about reward/punishment.
Viduy, is similar to the word Vadai, for sure. Clarity. It is clear to me that there are no tithes at home. It is clear to me that I have sinned. I am aware. I realize. What a big word. To realize. Elul is about awareness. Elul is to realize what we are doing. And the person who realizes and is aware of what the Day of Judgment implies is shaking in his pants(and not because his phone is on vibrate). For others, it takes forty days to become aware, but that is also fine.¬† That bachur who called me on the phone is already aware only two weeks into Elul, and I am jealous.
Our Rabbis teach, that the main word in Viduy is the word Aval. ◊ź◊Ď◊ú ◊ź◊†◊ó◊†◊ē ◊ē◊ź◊Ď◊ē◊™◊ô◊†◊ē ◊ó◊ė◊ź◊†◊ē.¬† That word has a synonym, ◊ź◊ú◊ź or ◊ź◊ě◊™. The word ◊ź◊ú◊ź ¬†¬†means that what was said until now was wrong. Now, I am aware of the truth. The responsible person is the one who realizes and is aware, and that is the connection between the two Viduys. If we aware of this, we may realize what Elul is all about.