By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Continuing my "day in the life" and my struggles with being human: My entire Rabbinate is based on listening and being open to the souls of others. In order to do this, I must be able to “Re-spond” and not “Re-act” when I encounter a disagreement.
8:30am- My first meeting was with a staff person who passionately disagreed with a decision I had made concerning his counselees. I realized I hard hurt the counselor's feelings and I felt guilty about that and also angry that the person hadn’t realized I knew better. We get involved in a passionate argument about my decision and the counselor feeling hurt that I disagree with their solution. I start to play spider solitaire on the computer and continue to talk to them. I do this because I feel my emotions get very intense and I go to diffuse my passion by multi-tasking. I explain to the counselor that I have to divert myself so that I don't go overboard in our discussion. The person knows this idiosyncrasy of mine and is still upset. I explain my reasoning and talk about the need to be right vis a vis knowing when one is right and keeping an open mind to learn something new. I know I am getting frustrated because as a graduate of the program, my expectation is that he/she will understand the way we do things at Beit T’Shuvah. I find myself having to manage and tone down myself otherwise I will miss a teaching moment and an opportunity to learn more about the issue, the resident and the counselor as well as myself. I find that I have to continue to be open when I just want to say "I am the boss and just follow my directions.” We resolve to agree to disagree and both of us feel heard and can see the reasoning of the other person. It is a win-win. In this instance, the counselor comes to me a few days later and says that my decision was, after all, correct. She/he asks me "how did you know?" I laugh and say it is God, not me.
9:00 - Spiritual counseling w/residents - this is one of my favorite activities. I am working with a person who has built a life based on lies and bad vision for so long, that they are jaded and want to use psychological reasoning with me. I have her write "lies I tell myself.” This is an amazing exercise because they start to see how their core beliefs have led them to live a life of lies, hopelessness, despair and selfishness. We engage in a discussion about her actions and her lies. After defending for the first 10-15 minutes, I ask some questions and when her ears turn red and her face starts to blush, this young woman starts to laugh and yells at me, " that's not fair, Rabbi! You get into my head and I can't defend myself.” I smile and say, "I am the advocate for your soul. I am only giving voice to the other part of you that you have refused to listen to and act on, your authentic, God given knowledge." She looks at me and laughs and says, "okay, I am going to follow that voice this week. See you next week". I am left with my own feelings of triumph for God and my own memories of how I shut that voice of God down for so long, causing so much pain. I reach for the phone and call my daughter, mother, sister, friend, brother, whomever I had harmed in the same way and do T’Shuvah with them. We end up laughing about how often I realize these types of errors after counseling someone else and how my calls help the other person see their own priors in acting the same way. It is 10:00am and I know the day is a great day already. I have learned and done T’Shuvah, connected with other people, and feel totally present and alive!
I struggle each day with the same issues I always have. I realize that the difference is that I am able to come out on God's side, the side of decency, truth and authenticity much much more often.
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