Every Elul I try my best to be introspective and see where I am holding spiritually. It seems no matter how hard I worked on myself the previous year I tend to fall short in many areas. One thing I can honestly boast of, (thanks to the teachings of Rav Nachman), is that I have learned not to despair and beat myself up for sins committed or for falling short of my goals. It had only served to stunt my growth, or worse to hasten my speed as I rolled down the mountain of failure. Instead, I do my best to pick up the shattered pieces of my broken self and resume building.

Change is the most difficult challenge there is. In order to change ourselves, we need to break from who we are. Even when making “change” of a dollar we say to “break it” in order to make “change”. Notice the break does not lessen the value, instead it allows us to divide our resources and thus acquire many things, gaining more as a result. Oftentimes change requires a breaking down and a rebuilding. When we plant a seed it breaks down into almost unidentifiable pieces, but then grows into something bigger and better. When we work out to build muscle, it rips /breaks and then rebuilds to a bigger, stronger muscle. No doubt change can be painful and there is work involved but the payoff can be entirely worthwhile. Usually, it is at the breaking point when you feel so discouraged that you want to give up. DON’T; that is exactly the time with perseverance you will find healing awaits around the corner and a better you is there to be found.

I was asked to speak in a shul in my neighborhood about what I have learned since last Rosh Hashanah. This forced me to dig down to the very core reason for my growth. What I realized was that I had spent most of my life perpetrating the greatest sin of all. I spent my life fighting who I am. I spent my life trying to fit into a box. The world I had known created various boxes and taught me that everyone belongs in one. All the years spent trying out boxes only led to increasing frustration as I realized time and again I don’t fit into any of them. It never dawned on me that this was an illusion, not the reality. People may choose their box, but this limits them to the confines therein. It was after this epiphany that I decided to try myself on. I was going to CHANGE out of society’s expectations and into my own skin. This has been a difficult process for me. I have been called all sorts of names from various groups of people. I have been declared one of “them” if I defend even a singular act, or philosophy, of an opposing group. I have been rejected by many for my refusal to fit entirely within any one group .

At first, I was uncomfortable not fitting in anywhere; it was overwhelming being outside of a box. Whereas in a box all the members conform to the same rule book, I have to analyze every step of my every day. It entails a lot more thinking, analyzing and soul searching. My head and heart are constantly undergoing a strenuous workout. Sometimes it hurts, but I am comforted for I have found the ultimate Teshuva; a return to my true self. I realized I had committed the greatest sin by shunning the gift G-d has given me and that is me. To truly be able to give of myself to others and to G-d, I must know who I am and what I have to offer. I pray everyone finds comfort in their own identity and be able to share their unique gifts with others this upcoming year, one filled with hope and celebrated individuality contributing to our beautifully diverse society.

Shana Tova