web analytics
March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

New Year’s Resolutions In September


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.

We are currently in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance. There is no period during the Jewish calendar year that is more conducive to spiritual renewal. When it comes to rebuilding our individual relationships with God, we all have some work to do. By setting realistic goals for ourselves, we stand the best chance of achieving the outcomes we desire.

About the Author: Kesher Israel Congregation’s Rabbi Akiva Males can be reached at rabbimales@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “New Year’s Resolutions In September”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
PLO / PA / Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas.
PA Back Down on ICC in Exchange for Frozen Tax Revenue
Latest Indepth Stories
Father Gabriel Naddaf with soldiers

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

More Articles from Rabbi Akiva Males
Rabbi Akiva Males

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

Statue of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon

The power of “positive campaigning;” Nothing quenches your soul’s thirst like Torah.

At the core of traditional Judaism is the belief that our world has a Creator. This Creator knows all that goes on in our world, and remains actively involved in all of its events – no matter how insignificant some of those events might seem.

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.

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: