Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
In the fall of 1988, I began a new chapter in my life. It had been almost a year since I delivered my bar mitzvah speech in my family’s warm suburban synagogue and just a few months after I’d completed eighth grade at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland – the Jewish day school I had attended since pre-kindergarten.
That fall, I was a freshman settling into the dormitory of the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study (WITS) – a yeshiva high school in Milwaukee, where the next four years would pass far too quickly.
I cannot adequately describe in these few lines the camaraderie, Jewish learning, and new experiences that were an integral part of my high school years on the shores of Lake Michigan. I would, however, like to share one episode of that first fall semester that I will never forget.
It was September, and we could all sense the rapidly changing season. The leaves were starting to color, and we watched deer gracefully dart through the yeshiva’s property and disappear into the woods. We had also enjoyed a Rosh Hashanah holiday unlike any we had known in our hometown synagogues. We had less than a week of yeshiva remaining until Yom Kippur – after which we would return to our homes across the country to celebrate Sukkot together with our families.
Aside from being the start of the Jewish year, Rosh Hashanah also begins the period known as Aseret Y’mei Teshuvah – the Ten Days of Repentance which culminate with Yom Kippur. Our ninth-grade Talmud instructor, Rabbi Powers, explained that while God, according to Jewish tradition, welcomes our sincere return to Him throughout the year, it is these ten days of the Jewish calendar that provide us an optimum opportunity to approach, reconnect, and rebuild our relationship with our Creator.
Although we had only known Rabbi Powers for a few weeks, my classmates and I felt a strong connection to him. He had an infectious smile, a sense of unbridled enthusiasm, and a palpable sense of concern for each of his young charges.
In the spirit of the Ten Days of Repentance, Rabbi Powers asked us each to take out a pen and a piece of paper so that we could embark on a learning experience together. He asked us to spend a minute or two in thought and then compile a private list of what we would each like to change about ourselves in the coming year in order to become a better Jewish person.
While I have no recollection of the items I came up with, I will never forget that day’s lesson. After a few minutes, Rabbi Powers asked us to look over our lists and cross off half the items. We were puzzled by his request. Why did he put us through the effort of compiling a lengthy New Year’s resolution list if we were just going to cross off half? Rabbi Powers had earned our trust, though, and we followed his instructions.
He then asked us to do the unthinkable: to again cross out half the remaining items. We were perplexed, and murmuring could be heard. Most of our lists were left with only one or two items of possible self-improvement. (One classmate from Chicago whispered to me that since his list was originally so short, he now had nothing left to improve about himself.)
Rabbi Powers quieted the room and went on to explain that our Talmudic sages had long ago taught: “Tofasta merubah lo tofasta – if one attempts to take hold of too much, he takes hold of nothing.”
The reason why most of us never carry through with our New Year’s resolutions is that we have taken on too great an assignment. While it is important as human beings to dream big, it is crucial that we remain realists.
More than 20 years have passed since that morning’s lesson, yet it is one I try to remember each year at this time. Self-improvement is a difficult business, and it goes against our basic nature. In order to experience the satisfying taste of success, our resolutions need to be realistic – and we need to be careful not to bite off more than we can chew.
About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.
Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”
Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.
We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.
Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty
While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.
n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.
The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier
The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.
I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.
Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.
The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.
The power of “positive campaigning;” Nothing quenches your soul’s thirst like Torah.
In a short span of time our shul raised and distributed thousands of dollars for relief organizations.
In 2007 my parents decided it was time to downsize and sell their home of more than thirty years. To help them pack up and move into their new apartment, I returned to Cleveland to offer my assistance.
Two recent experiences served to drive home the point to me that – with apologies to the popular Disney musical boat ride “It’s a Small World” – it really is a small Jewish world.
“Rabbi, is there any religious requirement for Jewish men to wear mezuzahs around their necks?”
“Rabbi, if you yourself are clean-shaven, why does this inmate claim his Jewish religion prohibits him from using a razor on his face?”
We are all aware of the terrible divisions among Israel’s Jewish population. My friends and colleagues in Israel tell me they cannot remember a time in recent years where so much fragmentation existed. All this when the external threats facing Israel grow greater by the day.
No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/new-years-resolutions-in-september/2009/09/23/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: