Compassion is a big concept in Buddhism. Cultivating a heart of compassion is one of its many teachings. But a heart of compassion is not necessarily an easy thing to attain. One must have compassion for oneself before one can have genuine compassion for others. Developing compassion for the self is a daily if not moment-by-moment practice. It requires discipline.
Compassion is also a big concept in Judaism. It is a particularly important area of focus during the month of Elul. It is a practice to recite the 13 Attributes of Compassion, the attributes that G-d is said to have revealed about G-d’s self after Moses pleaded for forgiveness following the betrayal of the Jewish People in building the golden calf:
“The Eternal Mystery, the Eternal Mystery, Almighty, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in kindness and truth, keeper of kindness for thousands of generations, endure of iniquity and transgression and sin, forgiving those who transgress” (Ex. 34:6-7).
Each of these words, according to the mystical tradition within Judaism, is said to contain enormous divine energy. They are said to be a part of the greatest secret of life, the key to repairing whatever is broken.
I wonder what it might be like, during the month of Elul, to be particularly intentional about cultivating a heart of compassion as part of our daily practice? How might that practice help us go into the High Holy Days with a more open heart, a more forgiving heart? Just as the sound of the shofar that is blown every morning during the month of Elul is said to wake us up, perhaps we can wake up a little more each day to the opportunity to be more compassionate– not only to ourselves, but also to others. What a wonderful way that would be to enter into the New Year.