#BlogElul – Search
I’m always looking for something. Sometimes it’s a new job or a new community; sometimes it’s a new friend or a new connection. Sometimes, I’m just looking for a good new pair of shoes, or for more time to sleep in. The point is that searching is what we do due to a state of dissatisfaction.
Often, I’m dissatisfied with my outer life. The kids aren’t as successful, the job doesn’t necessarily pay as much, the friends are busy (or I’m busy and they need me a lot), the clothes don’t fit right…there are many things to look for. Often this search is frustrating because I don’t find what I’m looking for. Even when I do find what I thought I wanted – the perfect job, or the perfect skirt – something changes. I find that the job includes paperwork I don’t want to do and the skirt stops fitting as well or can’t go through the wash. So, the search goes on.
This month is different, however. This is Elul. This is where I am supposed to search inward, to look at whether there is a state of dissatisfaction that I feel with my inner life. This is where I notice that the kids probably need more/less/different support than I’ve been giving, the job needs to be worked at a bit more – or switched, my friends complain that I’m too busy or too needy, and the clothes would fit better if I put down the chocolates. This search is often heartbreaking.
It’s bad enough that the Temple fell on Tisha B’Av. But at least we can blame the Romans for that, or God or those people who wouldn’t surrender, or those other ones who surrendered too easily. It’s much, much worse to realize that the fault is ours – that it was our inability to get along that led to our inability to negotiate with the Romans. Mostly, in the interest of humility and common sense, we focus on the fact that we have no control over big events like that, whether we think of those that happened long ago, or tragedies of today. Sometimes, however, we need to do more searching than that.
When the tragedy is our fault – when we get fired because we break the rules of the place we work, or when we lose a relationship due to inattention, or when we fail to plan and so find ourselves broke when a big important expense comes around – that’s the worst. Then there’s only one person to be angry at, and then the search is something I, at least, try hard to avoid. I’m an excellent avoider – you have no idea. I do a slap-dash, lackadaisical search, in which I “accidentally” don’t pick up certain piles, don’t look into certain closets, don’t open certain doors.
That kind of search has no chance of dealing with the dissatisfaction within, however. I can’t find what I’m looking for if I don’t search. I have to grit my teeth, look under that laundry, acknowledge that what I find is ugly and messy and my doing and start cleaning up and looking for a better way to handle the situation. I’ll always be looking. If I search thoroughly, maybe this time, I’ll find something useful.