When I was a teenager, I used to have a book of quotes. It was orange, with lined white paper, and the cover was decorated with colorful puffy paint of peace signs and hearts. I started writing in it at the age of 14, and by the time I was 17 it was completely full. I took this book with me everywhere I went, and hid it in a secret spot so that my younger siblings wouldn’t find it. I would copy over poems, bumper sticker or billboard messages . . . anything that moved or inspired me.
Recently, when I was looking through old things, I found this book. I was flipping through, reminiscing at the passages that tugged at my heart and soul, when I found one that completely astounded me. For the life of me I can’t figure out where I would have seen this quote or what I thought it meant at the time, but clearly the seed was planted many years before this quote would become even more relevant in my life.
When I saw these words, they shook me to my coreThe statement was from Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, a Chassidic rebbe, long before I had ever heard the word “chassidic.” I had written the quote on its own page, for I must have intrinsically felt its importance. It read: “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.”
When I saw these words, they shook me to my core. While I can’t figure out what it meant to me then or how I understood it, I know what it means to me now. Our wholeness, our completeness, is a process. And part of that process is allowing ourselves to feel and be vulnerable enough to be broken. If we have never been broken, we can never be whole. I love that. I need that.
We are now in the month of Elul, the month where we focus on rectifying our past while we prepare for our future. The 18th day of Elul, known as “Chai Elul,” is the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, as well as the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad. Chai means “life,” and so this date is known as the “life of Elul,” referring to its vitality and purpose. From the 18th of Elul until Rosh Hashanah there are exactly 12 days, and we are taught that each one of those days is an opportunity to reflect back and make amends for each of the 12 months in the year.
Let me say that again. Each day is an opportunity to rectify an entire month. Pretty powerful. No such thing as saying that it is too late, there is nothing that can be done. There sure is! Be open and honest and willing to ask for forgiveness, from yourself and from others. Twelve days can transform an entire year.
But looking back means being willing to accept and acknowledge our mistakes, the pain we caused and the opportunities we missed. That can be hard. Really hard. And it is so much easier to just close that door and tell ourselves we are just focusing on moving forward. But Elul reminds us that if we want our future to be different than our past, we better take a long and hard look at it, learn from those mistakes and commit to not making them again. Looking back is not being stuck in the past; it is what ensures that the past remain there, and not follow us into our present.
Looking back is not being stuck in the past; it is what ensures that the past remain thereAnd yeah, it is hard, because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be growing or developing. And yeah, it hurts, but that is the point. It is not that we want the pain or ask for it, but it makes us who we are, and if utilized correctly, makes us better because of it.
I can’t even begin to remember what heartache I must have experienced at 15 when I wrote down that quote. It must have been pretty painful, though, if the words of a broken heart moved me and connected to me. And I bet if you asked me then, I would have believed that the pain was something I never would forget, and probably something I never would get over. But I did. And at the same time, it changed me.
That 15-year-old is part of who I am today. And what that 15-year-old saw and related to still moves me, and even defines me to a point. I wrote that quote down years before I ever knew what Chassidic philosophy was, or ever heard of the Baal Shem Tov. But I connected to the words of a Chassidic rebbe, who himself drew on the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings—and then now, as we approach Chai Elul, I come across my book, my dearest possession from over 25 years ago. And how true those words ring, reminding me once again that whatever pain I currently experience will one day be lessened, but the lesson from that pain will remain with me forever. For those words are so true: “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart . . .”
My broken hearted patients, in the Clinics, sufered so much, and they had much reason to be sad and depressed, but they gave me so much, in extending and sharing their broken hearts with me, and that was, the most humbling eperience.
"They" taught me so many lessons in life, and one young man, who suffered so much at the hands of fate, when he said to me, he wanted to be famous like Hitler, I had to weep, and realized, how hurt he was, and how damaged, by life and how distorted his thinking. Could I change this?
I feel that life is a Marathon in which we are all the runners, all racing towards the finish line, and we all encounter such heartbreak en route, as life is so much about endurance, and how much we can endure, and how we manage individually and collectively to pick each other up along the way. Those watching the Boston Marathon hand out water and slices of orange to the runners as they go by, to give them strength and to instill a feeling of goodwill, which goes a long way.
In the final analysis, we're all traversing Heartbreak Hill towards our laurel wreaths.
marshfield hills, ma
and I answered him with that lesson- its a beautiful lesson.
Being vulnerable =accepting the fact that we are not independent and that Hashem is incharge. What vulnerability feels like to me
vulnerability- its like my heart is split in two on one side there's fear of letting go
and on the other side there's freedom and happiness.
one side is the negative inclination- scared that you are growing in your trust of Hashem
and on the other side there's the G-dly soul, happy that you are finally becoming a little more nullified and allowing yourself to be DEPENDENT on Hashem.
When we meet our soul mate I think there is a similar metaphor that could hold, as hearts do come together as One, and of course a broken heart, meaning loss, pain, depth of sadness, gets repaired often when we find a spiritual way to come to terms with such 'heart breaking" loss.
Thank you once again for a beautiful piece of writing. I guess I knew I would find something uplifting here, as I most always do!
marshfield hills, ma
Camp Verde, Az
As for me, my life is totally visibly synchronous, so I know, coming to this most beautiful piece about diaries, is where I am supposed to be at this moment in time.
I am always walking into Anne's famous Diary, and yes, it is ubiquitous, but there is something else, and I say, there's a profound reason she remains, everywhere, because her beautiful words, I know...about how life will turn out, even in deepest tragedy, are embers to embrace. It's the divine fire. Totally a story, about LOVE itself.
A chord in a broken heart is surely, about the music as chords are to music and cords are also to what binds.
marshfield hills, ma
Palm Desert, CA