Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Blogging Elul 5771 – Day 2

One can argue the American self-help or self-improvement craze really took off towards the end of the 20th century. According to at least one study by Marketdata, by 2006, the self help market was worth an estimated $9 Billion dollars including but not limited to infomercials, self-help books, stress management, weight loss and the like. Needless to say, we as Americans seem to really be into self-improvement.

However that pales in comparison to our love affair with fast food, by which we spend more than $110 billion a year, which according to CBS, news is more than we’ll spend on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and recorded music combined.
So in a sense, we tend to still be more into self-destruction than self-improvement, or as Freud described it, the Todestrieb or “death drive.” This can also be understood as our capacity as individuals and as a society to make choices that lead us towards self-destruction.

This is in part why Elul is so very important to the Jewish psyche. As long as we continue down the path of self-destruction through our little choices – be it our diets, our words, our habits, our work, or the like; our path towards self-destruction can feel inevitable.

But Elul allows us to reset the clock, to get out of old patterns. As I mentioned in Elul – Day 1, it is not easy to do, but well worth the effort. To speak metaphorically, think of the High Holy Days as a chance to put down that burger and fries and to make and instead to pick up sushi or a light turkey sandwich. Little positive daily choices ultimately can have a much larger lasting life impact, but only if we become aware of them and are willing to make them.

So maybe it is time to start thinking of Elul as God's spiritual self-help guide. And that guide is free and open to all.

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