days of repentance: 16 Elul

“my heart says, Seek out My Face, Your Face, G’d, i seek”

again with Psalm 27, already yet? well, we are saying it twice daily in Elul, might just as well study from it some, yes?

let’s consider the deeper meaning of the hebrew root pay nun mem, usually translated as “face” or “countenance”. panim is the hebrew for face, but it doesn’t mean the sort you put on in the morning….that you never go out without putting on—though it really should and could mean that in a spiritual sense. face in the hebrew sense is not the external thing that can become a mask, but rather it is the expression of our soul in inner holiness. the face always transmits our inner way, or at least it should–pnim/panim is focused on what our face should convey, and not how we use it to conceal our emotions, or mock, or grimace at external things.

“the wisdom of a person shines in the face”

as we learn from Ecclesiastes 8:1 gets at it. perhaps you have known someone whose face seemed to glow with spirit…if so you have into the person from the outside. no mask of concealment or manipulation, but only a true transmission out from deep within. such faces make us all feel better, more whole, more welcome. and i think it is because we see the the person with such a face is genuine through and through.
Abulafia and the Holy Ari both were famous for their ability to accurately read a person’s inner wholeness, their shlemut.  it is said that people passing them casually sometimes resorted to covering their faces when they passed either of them so that their hypocrisy would not be seen.  Abulafia pointed out that the shoresh haneshamah, the deep root of the soul, in every human was a tzadik in utter unity with haShem always. but too often our animal soul, more distant from the deep shoresh, and the basis of our immediate revealed self appears fragmented and imperfect.

when doing t’shuvah, you want to be sure that you give yourself credit for your accomplishments, no matter how small they may be, for at the deepest level the soul is always delighted by efforts to draw close to haShem on every level and in every way. chet and aveirah are not so deep as your shoresh haneshamah, so why should the stress and worry that go along with confession and turning be what is projected? be honest, brutally honest about your perfections and imperfections, but then allow your joy at what you gain through your t’shuvah work through your face. why? because you are doing just as well as all the rest of us. we all have more or less shlemut through our work all the time, but all of us, all of us, have gained something by way of the t’shuvah we have done in any moment. so don’t worry, be happy!

“as water reflects a face, one heart reflects another”

we jump from Psalm 27 to from Proverbs 27 (verse 19) to learn that it is our heart that should show on our face. and it takes real heart to do t’shuvah. THAT is what you should be practicing in Elul, giving the gift of sweetness of spirit in your smile, in your glance, in all the looks and reactions that can be gleaned from your face. after all, we learn from the prophet Nehemiah (8:10) the mitzvah of enjoying delights  and sending gifts on Rosh haShanah, but it is meritorious to do this mitzvah throughout Elul, so let your face reflect the sweetness and delight of your enriching soul……for we are all in need of joy in Elul.

“eat delights and drink sweets and send gifts to others in need”

so, what do you think?

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