Jewish Journal

Living an Examined Life

by Beit T'shuvah

February 14, 2014 | 12:57 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

As I sit here, this morning, at my computer I am thinking about an article written in The Catholic Agitator by Dr. Cornel West about Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker. Dorothy Day is a hero of my wife, Harriet Rossetto and an extraordinary woman, who’s memory is a blessing to so many.

In the article, Dr. West says that Dorothy Day, “took so seriously the words of Plato: ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Yet she understood, as Malcolm X always added, ‘the examined life is painful.’”

This paradox is what all of us have to live in. For many people, finding a way out of living in this paradox is their life’s quest. How silly, really, when you think about it. As I get older, I realize that I am not going to get out of life alive :) I do want to slide into the grave with grass stains and wounds and scars from living life out loud (some/many say I live too loudly) and knowing that I have looked at me and at you and together we have made a difference and become better at being human.

This paradox is not to be shunned or even figured out, I believe. It is living in this paradox where greatness happens. Looking at the heroes of the Bible, and of life since Biblical times, we see their flaws, their warts AND their greatness. This is the hardest conundrum for most people. We live in an either/or society and we get confused when someone is Both/And; great and a louse, heroic and mistaken, loving and warring. These are not antithetical behaviors, rather, they are human.

Dorothy Day was not a perfect woman. Because of her imperfections, I believe she was a saint! Just as Rev. King Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, etc. were not perfect, they were heroes and Saints (a Jewish Saint? why not remember Jesus was Jewish) because they lived lives of examination.

It is painful for me, as it is for everyone who lives an examined life, because I see the areas that I messed up, the opportunities I missed, the explosions and chaos I have caused. These bring me much pain and sadness; they also bring me hope and joy. Pain and sadness for those I have harmed and for not serving God and wrestling with myself to curb myself. Hope and joy for being able to live in truth and change and repair, serving God and you all better and living my place/gift in this world to the greatest degree I can as well as knowing that today and tomorrow bring new opportunities to examine, re-examine, and do better in my life.

This is why I am “Addicted to Redemption” and ask you to join me in a life of T’Shuvah, examination, repair, response, and joy.

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