We spend a lot of time trying to make others understand us. And, hopefully, trying to understand others. It’s how we learn–both general knowledge, and the knowledge of other people. But to what extent do we really understand ourselves?
Maybe that’s a piece of what Elul and the High Holy Days are really about–learning to understand not only the world, not only each other, but us. If I examine my mind and my heart, then perhaps I’ll realize something new about myself. Perhaps I’ll understand myself a little bit better.
Judaism teaches about 2 kinds of repair: tikkun olam, repairing the world, which we talk a lot about (the world is pretty broken, after all) and tikkun middot, repairing ourselves. Through different values and different character traits, we are taught to constantly strive towards being our best selves. And we are also taught to keep this all in balance–to practice those traits that are harder for us, and to recognize when one trait might be more useful than another. And also to use these traits and these values to view our lives differently. Tikkun Middot is about positioning our personal moral compass–in order to navigate our complicated lives within an ever increasingly complicated world.
The balance, of course, also exists between when we focus on the world and when we focus on ourselves–and the recognition that both play into the same process. It’s like a seesaw, which constantly goes back and forth, and works best when the center of gravity is found. Just like we work best when we are centered and grounded–understanding those around us, as well as ourselves. Even if just for a moment.