Looking Back or Moving Forward

September 9, 2011 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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A Q&A Session with Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Question:

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

Last week you discussed “Elul” – the month of preparation for the New Year.  You described it as an opportunity to take stock and strongly reflect on the past year, identify and analyze areas of weakness, and resolve to improve our performance in the coming year.

This all sounds great.  There are many things I would like to do differently in the coming year, like strengthen my relationships or perhaps add a bit more spirituality to my life.

But I struggle with the idea of ‘stock taking’ and reflection. It sounds like an over focus on the mistakes of last year.  I find this confronting and an unnecessary attachment to the past. Can’t bygones be bygones and let’s just move on?

Answer:

You are right. The New Year is all about newness and moving forward with a fresh beginning. Getting stuck in the past generates negative guilt and causes paralysis of the spirit.

On the other hand, you can only discard the past if you understand it well. Moving forward without good knowledge of what you are leaving behind allows the mistakes of the previous year to linger in the background and to resurface at any time.  A brutally honest assessment of the past helps us identify what we really need to discard completely. Understanding and acknowledging our weaknesses makes us uncomfortable enough to really want improve and make a fresh start.

If we focus on the goal of the future and really believe in our ability to improve, honest reflection will support the journey of change. It is only when we lack the motivation or confidence to grow that it becomes an excuse to remain trapped in negativity.

This month has a strong energy of change. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Identify one negative practice or habit to throw away and take the first step forward.

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