Shoftim 5778 – Loving Ourselves & G-d Wholeheartedly

By: Michael Carr

Today’s parasha focuses on Moses review of laws from previous books in the Torah as well as the Judicial leadership that will be required before entering Israel.  Within the parsha is this statement:

“תָּמִ֣ים תִּֽהְיֶ֔ה עִ֖ם יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ:  – “Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God.”

Look – we are known as the ‘Chosen People’ – not the ‘Perfect People’.  As in years gone by and always as a daily reminder it’s important to acknowledge our imperfections.

Steve Martin famously said about imperfection: “Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”

Truly perfect, Seth Godin says,  is becoming friendly with your imperfections on the way to doing something remarkable.
In his 2016 Shoftim D’var Rabbi David Wolpe states that the  way we treat other people and the way we think about  God are different. God knows what’s going on inside us. What one decides about treating other people and what one decides about loving God are different.  Rabbi argues that one can keep secrets from others though one cannot keep secrets from God.

In other words there is a dichotomy between a relationship with ourselves and others and how we relate to or believe in God.

It is said that we may be able to fool others with pretentious behaviors and speech which lacks sincerity, humility and authenticity though our speech and behavior are no secret to God. With the high holidays just around the corner it is more important than ever to understand the meaning of a wholehearted relationship with God and ourselves.

Rabbi Wolpe believes that wholehearted is represented by and gives us a sense of completeness.  When one is Wholehearted there is also sincerity and humility particularly in the way we treat others and the mitzvot we demonstrate everyday such as a simple thank you.

Wolpe also believes that Judaism cares less about how you feel and more about your actions. People have to be treated with respect.  How we act and feel reflects  upon ourselves and others. Often, actions of the heart are easier to follow and accept in ourselves and others.

In order to achieve a wholehearted relationship with God one needs to know who they are and how they act towards others.

This is the time of year when we must be honest with ourselves and about ourselves regarding transgressions from the past year. It is also a time of the year for sincere and wholehearted reflection to figure out how we can improve beyond the high holidays.

Wholeheartedness begins within ourselves once we recognize that we want change and what we want to change about ourselves. Wholeheartedness can be our purpose, cause or beliefs.

According to her research, Brene Brown provides 10 ideas for living a wholehearted life which also allows for self-love -a key ingredient in personal growth and authenticity.  These ideas can be applied anytime before, during or after the high holidays to help us better understand ourselves and get closer to God:

  1. Develop authenticity by letting go of what people think
  2. To achieve self-compassion eliminate perfectionism
  3. Create a resilient spirit by stopping numbing (the things that are painful to us which we avoid by excessive eating, binge TV watching, shopping, spending or substance use)
  4. Live a life of gratitude by giving up the idea of scarcity or fear of darkness
  5. By applying intuition and personal faith one can give up uncertainty
  6. Get creative by giving up comparison (it’s never fair to compare)
  7. Play and rest often-exhaustion and productivity are not symbols of self-worth
  8. Figure out what the value of calm and stillness are in relation to your life by getting rid of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Meaningful work is different than work that contains self-doubt and is full of ‘supposed to’s’
  10. Bring laughter, song and dance into your life by letting go of being cool and always being in control

If there is no self-love—no recognition of the beautiful and holy spark or Shekinah within—it is difficult to truly love one’s self or give to another or connect with God.

This holiday season and beyond – let’s live our lives by first taking care of ourselves, our health and our spiritual well being so we can care for those closest to us who may not have the capacity to do so. Let us do this so we can develop a meaningful and wholehearted relationship with God.