10 Elul 5779
Sept. 10, 2019
Identity Issues Forth
by Tzvi Schnee
Identity is an oft-mentioned quality, that from a psychological perspective may be gleaned from within the subfields of both social psychology and personality theory. Yet, it is something, more or less abstract, until an individual begins to contemplate upon what is most significant, in defining one’s self. For myself, it is not so much who I am, as who I am becoming. Nor, is it so much about my past, as it is about my future. Yet, the present state of being, is the place of transition, where past, present, and future interact. I realize as I write these words, that their profundity is perplexing. Yet, a point to make clear is that identity shifts, even moment to moment, in a very subtle way. Mostly, these shifts occur without awareness; however, every thought, word, or nonverbal response in life may not exactly be in accord with who we think we are, or who we would like to be.
In psychology, when there is an incongruency in ourselves, especially between thought and action, this is called “cognitive dissonance,” as coined by Leon Festinger. From a religious perspective, consider the following: teshuvah (repentance) is the bridge from disharmony within ourselves, towards a harmony of truth amidst our expectations to better ourselves as individuals, in alignment with G-d’s expectations of us. Aveiros (sins) are the agent of disharmony; and, a protracted sinful life brings us out of alignment with G-d. It would be nice, if we could simply make an appointment with a spiritual chiropracter; however, realignment is ultimately in our hands, no pun intended.
With H’Shem’s help, I believe that irrespective of my past mistakes, through teshuvah, i.e., a return to G-d, in mind, body, and spirit, I will be brought to “higher ground,” so to speak, where the unruly waves of my past will recede into the distance. Inevitably, through perseverence, my identity will become polished, as my soul is sanctified through H’Shem’s commandments; and, I will not only be in a more harmonious relationship with G-d, rather, also, with myself and others – family, friends, and acquaintances. H’Shem willing. For all is dependent on the transformative power of G-d’s influence in my life; so, while it is up to me to make an effort to change, the task may only be completed with His help. As I look forward to the New Year on the Hebrew calendar, I hope that my life will improve as a result of my efforts, and H’Shem’s blessings.