Leaving Our Negative Baggage Behind
We have come to the beginning of the month of Elul, or Virgo; it is a month the Zohar says is the most consequential of the year. The work that we do in these next four weeks that lead up to Rosh Hashanah offer us the possibility of bringing a completely new level of Light, blessings, and fulfillment into our lives, influencing the type of life we are going to have for the next year.
So, what is the work of this month? The Ari, Rav Isaac Luria, gives us one verse from Isaiah that I think should be our guiding principle and thought throughout these next four weeks - “the Creator gives us a pathway through the ocean”- because what the kabbalists teach we need to do during this time is create a new pathway for ourselves. In so doing, we create ourselves into a new being, and create a new life.
For most of us throughout the past year, there were days when we were kind, days when we were angry, days when we hurt somebody, days when we helped somebody, and so on. And what happens, which is one of the most important fundamental teachings of Kabbalah, is that if we have behaved in any way that was selfish, that energy continues to exist until it comes back into our lives in one negative or challenging way or another. However, the month of Virgo offers us the opportunity to leave all of that baggage behind so it does not have to re-enter our life and manifest in negative and challenging ways. So, how do we do that?
One very important way is probably something we have heard before, but might have only had varying degrees of success in living; in this month, however, we have to fight to live it as best we can.
The kabbalists teach that as we behave towards other people, so the Light of the Creator behaves towards us. As such, if there is one month of the year when we need to find goodness in people that we have never considered good before, it is in this month. Why? Because every single one of us has untapped goodness, and when we see it in other people, we can reveal it within ourselves. By looking towards another person that we think is negative or who has no redeeming qualities, and finding a positive quality, the Light of the Creator will then help reveal the untapped Light and potential that is within us.
Therefore, it is one of the most important rules for this month that we run away from judgment and towards finding the concealed goodness in others; when we do this, we will start to see and feel that energy, goodness, and potential within ourselves that we never saw or felt before. In doing so, we can become a different person and create a new path for ourselves, in turn, leaving behind all the negativity of the past.
There is a teaching from one of the great kabbalists, Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk, regarding the power of prayer, which is also the power of the month of Virgo. The kabbalists teach that when a person has a problem with his or her life, there is a unique power in kabbalistic prayer to transform and change it. If we know every challenge that comes into a person’s life is an effect of a negative energy that they created, how then, through words of prayer or connection, can they change the negativity that has manifested?
Rav Elimelech says the following: when a person transforms, he or she is in a different place. They are a different person now, and therefore, whatever challenge had manifested was for somebody else who was on a different path. It is an amazing understanding, and is the power of the month of Virgo; we can transform ourselves and put ourselves in a different place, becoming a different person with a new path, where none of the challenges we created exist anymore, and we become free from the negative baggage of our past. And, as we learned, one of the ways to do this during the month of Virgo is by choosing to run from judgment of others, looking deeply within them to find only goodness. May we all have the ability not only to understand this, but to truly live it over the next four weeks.