Rosh Hashanah is quickly approaching. As we enter the new year, it is appropriate for us to make resolutions. Resolutions to increase our commitments to spiritual growth…. Resolutions to deepen our relationship with Hashem…. Resolutions to strengthen our service of Him.
But in order to do this in a meaningful way we must first internalize the idea that there is in fact a need to do this. What if we are under the delusional belief that we’re basically already as good as it gets? I know it may seem crazy that anyone could possibly think that about themselves but it’s not!
Rebbe Nachman tells us we can have a completely false understanding of our true spiritual level. He states, “You may think you are far from certain major desires, such as the lust for wealth. Yet you may be in a worse position than someone else who is sunk in that desire, because you may be deeply sunk in some other craving that wholly overshadows even the lust for wealth. If you are so deeply immersed in some craving that is powerful enough to overshadow another strong desire such as the lust for wealth, you are surely worse off.” (Sichos HaRan #56)
Elsewhere, Rebbe Nachman gives us another dose of brutal honesty:
“The more you draw yourself to G-d, the more you must realize how far you are from Him. When a person believes that he has succeeded in achieving closeness to G-d and understanding of Him, it is a sign that he does not know anything at all.” (Likutey Moharan I, 63)
The point of all this is to stay humble and to maintain a mindset of spiritual growth.
Some of us may have the opposite problem. We may be so acutely aware of our character defects and shortcomings that we despair of ever overcoming them. We know we’ve tried countless times and failed, so we give up on the whole concept of self-improvement. To this Rebbe Nachman tells us something astounding: “Here on earth the motion towards improvement may have been no more than a hair’s breadth, and the person who made it is under the impression that they have not moved at all from their spiritual level (for the actual distance is inconceivable to all except G-d). Even so, in the Upper Worlds the distance moved can be worlds upon worlds…light years! How much more so when a person moves a mile or even several miles on earth in the service of G-d.”
Rebbe Nachman is telling us that even the slightest improvements, the slightest turning away from sinful behavior, even for a second, is precious in Heaven and worth tremendous value. Even when it seems to us to be totally insignificant!
May Hashem help us to enter the upcoming new year with the proper desire to improve ourselves and to properly value even the smallest victories over the yetzer hara. Amen.