The task is large, unending, but we are not free to ignore it. This is not a labor to be accomplished in one great effort or in occasional exertions. The task is the conforming of our minds and spirits to complete love and awe of Hashem . . .
Yet they are the wisest of the wise:
Ants are a folk without power,
Yet they prepare food for themselves in summer;
The badger is a folk without strength,
Yet it makes its home in the rock;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all march forth in formation;
You can catch the spider in your hand,
Yet it is found in royal palaces.
Michael V. Fox says in his masterful commentary:
Though these four creatures are small and seem to be weak, they overcome their vulnerability through cunning: the ants by preparing their provisions in advance of need; the badgers by living in inaccessible crevices of cliffs; the locusts by attacking in disciplined formations; the spider by living in palaces.
HOW IT WORKS: I will post a few texts and some of my reflections as a discussion starter. Discussion will happen in the blog comments until 10:00 p.m. Eastern time. Use the refresh icon on your browser to read as new comments come in.
IF YOU’RE A FIRST-TIME COMMENTER: WordPress will ask you to register. Sorry, but I can’t prevent that. And I will have to approve your first comment. But I will be doing that during the hour of discussion and your comment will appear.
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RULES: This is discussion about repentance, mussar, High Holidays, and God. Anti-Jewish comments, rudeness, comments of excessive length, and similar misdemeanors will get you deleted. But I expect the best of those who show up and I doubt there will be any unpleasantness.
SOME TEXTS AND DISCUSSION STARTERS AFTER THE JUMP . . .
Many efforts are habitual, repetitive, requiring constant labor and attention on a frequent basis. Pursuing a lifestyle of love and awe (ahavat Hashem and yirat Hashem) is this kind of effort.
Sometimes we fail to advance in study of Torah, biblical texts, tradition, wisdom, mussar, and similar valuable areas because we are willing only occasionally to devote an hour to the work, or even twelve hours here and there. But work in this kind of learning is better accomplished through disciplined, habitual learning over a long period of time.
The kind of learning that brings us closer to godliness involves slow, patient learning. We have to learn ourselves, how we work, the workings of our animal nature, the impulses of the Yetzer HaRa (evil inclination), and the potentialities of the spirit (that which elevates us above animals and relates us to God). We have to observe the workings of other people, as we often learn ourselves best through observing others and also in order to best serve and bear the burdens of others. And we have to learn the virtues of awe and love in their many facets.
What task could really be greater than the improvement of our love and awe of God? What High Holiday prayers, scriptures about repentance, mussar texts, or anything pertinent to this discussion would you like to share? What does it mean to love God? What does it mean to regard him with awe (fear of God)? What steps of repentance might be helpful and shareable with others on an Elul journey?