We are now in the Jewish month of Elul, a month designated for spiritual self improvement and growth in preparation for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I just encountered a unique observation about myself, which embodies for me most of my personal Elul experience for this season.
In the midst of studying Torah with a study partner, we conversed on the topic of spiritual struggles and it simply dawned on me that a person needs to identify and identify with his/her personal holy cravings. Just as a person has unhealthy cravings, so too s/he has holy ones as well. There’s no negative without at least an equal positive and cravings are no exception to this pervasive pattern.
I am sure that everyone has a unique set of holy cravings. For example, high on my long list includes immersion in the study of the Matok M’Dvash version of the Zohar and the Rabbi Shalom Ber of Lubavitch discourse series for the Jewish year 5659. Also included, is teaching Torah, initiating fresh Torah insights, protracted meditation, heartfelt prayer, writing deeply and helping people in need.
What I discovered about myself is that I unconsciously practiced a technique to undermine my own draw to unhealthy cravings by simply identifying more intensely with my holy cravings. Even if it’s ideal to avoid all cravings, it’s sometimes difficult to pull oneself entirely away from their allure. However, one might still be free to choose which set of cravings to identify with.
This can be compared to a hungry person sitting in a restaurant. It’s true that s/he will most likely eat and is fully expected to. Still, s/he does not necessarily need to choose an unhealthy dish, when there’s a vast selection of healthy ones.
I am extremely thankful to the Creator for bringing to conscious awareness what I was unconsciously doing. Firstly, it positively impacts my self image. When I was undergoing this process subconsciously, essentially I thought of myself as a “sinner” who just got a “lucky break” and was simply distracted from pursuing temptation by unexpected Divine intervention. Now, I see myself as a good person who's on the path of identifying with his inner goodness and is open to the lure of the holy. What a difference!
Secondly, as long as the process was subconscious, there was not able to wield it as freely. I felt like Benjamin Franklin who had to await a rain storm for lightening to fill his leyden jars with the electricity to a high capacity. He could not generate anything close to that level on his own. Similarly, I had to passively await a flow of vaguely identified holiness to offset the unhealthy cravings I squirmed in. Now, I can make a powerful choice to strongly identify with my better self. I want to make this self my homebase and build on it even further. Now I know that I can choose to live inside my own spiritual home built from the bricks and mortar of holy cravings.