A Comprehensive Program to Maximize The High Holy Days

Category: Week Five

5.02 The Ten Days of Teshuvah; Restoring Your Lost Innocence

5.02 THE TEN DAYS OF TESHUVA: RESTORING YOUR LOST INNOCENCE

WE ARE FOUR DAYS INTO THE TEN DAYS OF TESHUVA. HOW MUCH TESHUVA HAVE YOU DONE?

We are now four days into the Ten Days of Teshuva. The obvious priority for these days is teshuva. There is no greater opportunity to get close to G-d, than the next six days of the year. The time for preparation is over. The time for teshuva is now. The most important question to ask at this time is how much teshuva have you done over the past few days?And if the answer is not as much as you should, then now is the time to change.

INTRODUCTION TO LESSON 20

The Gemora points out a fascinating aspect of human psychology:

R. Huna said, ‘Once a man does wrong and repeats it, it is permitted to him.
“It is permitted to him!” Can you really think such a thing?
Rather it becomes to him as if it is permitted. (Kiddushin 40a)

When a man does a transgression and then he does it again, it no longer appears to him as a transgression. It becomes as if it is permitted. As a matter of fact, the Baali Mussar (Masters of Self-Perfection) point out that the third time you do it, not only does it become as if it is permitted to him, but it-even becomes a mitzvah!

People lose spiritual sensitivities by repeating a transgression. A holocaust survivor was once heard saying, ‘The first time I ate treif (non-kosher food), I thought I was going to die; the second time, I felt a little pain; and the third time, something snapped and I didn’t feel any guilt.”

The school of R. Yishmael taught: Sin dulls the heart of man, as It is said: Neither shall you make yourselves unclean with them, that you should be defiled thereby (Vayikra 11.43). Do not read ve-nitmasem (that you should be unclean) but u-netmosem (that you should become dull-hearted).n (Yoma 39a)

The blunting of man’s finer perceptions which make him unable to distinguish between right and wrong is the outcome of continual sin. This spiritual insensitivity will not only lead you to transgress in the future, but it will remove you from G-d in a very deep way.

When a person does teshuva the reverse occurs. Teshuva sharpens your spiritual nerves. You are now saying to G-d, “I feel it is wrong. I feel regret.” You restore your spiritual being back to sensitivity. To give you an example of spiritual sensitivity imagine this: the Chofetz Chaim fainted when he first saw a Jew driving on Shabbos.

During this very important time period this is exactly what we have to do. Our goal is to try to resensitize ourselves away from sin. The purpose of this sheet is to try to awaken some of the old sensitivities that we might have lost over the past few years, while we were pushing ahead in other areas of our lives.

We must resensitize ourselves to the time prior to when we committed that first transgression. This restoration of innocence is hard work but a very necessary and productive step during the Ten Days of Teshuva.

PART ONE-THE POWER OF THE FIRST TIME

1. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU LEARNED THE LAWS OF LOSHON HARA?

Remember many years ago you walked into the yeshiva and you heard that there was a mitzvah not to speak Loshon Hara? You were fascinated. You thought to yourself, ‘What an amazing thing. I am going to learn those laws. You found a copy of Guard Your Tongue, and you spent a whole day learning the laws. For the next week, you were a changed person. Every word out of your mouth was carefully weighed out and measured. But then something happened. You noticed that other people were not so particular as you. As a matter of fact, when you were very careful, you made people nervous. So, for whatever reason, you stopped being so careful. You wanted to be more “normal’ and accepted. After all, who were you to be acting so frum anyway?

Now, it is many years later, and you look back when you were a “new guy in the beginners program” with a little envy. Why not try to catch a little bit of the old spirit and get back these old sensitivities?

2. START FROM SCRATCH

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you do differently? You have probably learned a lot about yourself these past few years. You have missed a few things along the way that are probably difficult to go back and get. And why is it difficult? Because you think you are so far along in the process that it is an embarrassment to go back and learn it.

So what if you have been here for four years and still don’t understand fully what is written in the siddur. That shouldn’t hold you back from still learning it. Maybe you realize that you don’t understand at all the meanings behind the main holidays. So why not go back and get it now?

Try this exercise. Imagine in your mind’s eye that you are arriving at the yeshiva today for the first time as the person you are, at the level you are on now, and no one knows you and you have never been in any classes in the yeshiva. You now have the opportunity to set up any schedule that you want. What would you do differently? What changes would you make in your life, if no one knew you?

The purpose of this exercise is to focus a person on that part of himself that might have gotten lost over the years. Many people subconsciously judge themselves by the number of years that they are observant. This unfortunately causes a person who needs to go back and learn something he missed to not do so for fear of being embarrassed. As a result he might lose touch with certain essential ingredients that are needed to make up the recipe of his personality.

So ask yourself. How would I start from scratch if nobody knew me? This might bring you to startling realizations about certain areas that might need correcting because you have lost touch with the deepest parts of your soul.

3. THE FIRST TIME SHE EVER PRAYED

At one of the branches of Aish HaTorah in America, I witnessed the following story:

There was a man who wanted to get ahead in life. One of the things that he felt was holding him back was the fact that he was Jewish. So he decided to run away from his Jewishness. He went to Iowa, changed his name, and disappeared into the heart of Christian America.

There was a woman, whose Jewish mother intermarried into a “fine” Baptist family. She was raised as a “fine” Christian girl in the heart of Iowa. One day, this “escaping’ Jew met this “fine” Christian girl and they were married. They had a daughter who they raised as a non-Jew.

The daughter grew up, left Iowa and moved to the “Big City” where she got a job as a secretary for an organization called “Aish HaTorah.” During this time period, for the first time, her father revealed to her mother that he was Jewish. He expected his wife to be angry, but instead she replied, “Oh, my mother was Jewish also.” They both laughed at the irony of the whole situation.

That day the father spoke to his daughter. He told his daughter the story in a laughing way. “Do you know that according to Jewish law you are considered to be a full fledged Jew? Now isn’t that the funniest thing you ever heard?” The girl didn’t laugh. She was extremely impressed with the people at Aish HaTorah and could not understand why she felt so connected to what they were doing.

That night she went to daven for the first time. It was Friday night. I saw her bewildered expression when she left the Beit Knesset for the first time in her life after having found out she was Jewish. She said the following, “How can it be in a place of G-d, people don’t pay attention during their prayers to G-d? Don’t they realize they are talking to G-d? Is there something I don’t understand here? There were even people talking about business.”

Remember the first time you prayed in your life? Do you remember the anticipation? Do you remember how you closed your eyes and spoke to G-d from the depths of your heart? Do you remember how shocked you were when you saw people not acting in a proper way during the service? Are we these same people many years later?

If we daven three times a day for a year, that is over 1000 Shemoneh Esreis. How many Shemoneh Esreis have you prayed so far? 5000? 10,000? Now remember how hard you tried to concentrate during Shemoneh Esrei #1-10?

Take one prayer and pretend it is the very beginning. Put yourself back into those first few days of prayer and just let go. You might find it to be a very powerful experience.

PART TWO-THE POWER OF CRYING OUT

1. CRY OUT TO G-D DURING DAVENING THAT HE SHOULD HELP YOU TO RETURN TO THE PROPER WAY

Here you are in the Ten Days of Teshuva and the tension is on. And you so badly want to figure out a way to open up your heart. But you just don’t know how to do it. Feel the pain of how far you are away from G-d. Feel how close you want to be.

The Gemora in Brachos (16a) talks about the different prayers that the Rabbis used to say at the end of the Amidah prayer. One of the prayers mentioned there adequately expresses this frustration : Sovereign of the Universe, it is revealed and known to You that our will is to perform Your will, and what prevents us? The yeast in the dough and the subjugation to the foreign powers. May it be Your will to deliver us from their hand, so that we may return to perform the statutes of Your will with a full heart.

The yeast in the dough symbolizes the Yetzer Hara (evil impulse) which causes negativity to ferment in our heart. The subjugation to the foreign powers symbolizes the exile with its attendant value system and social pressures to “conform,” which drain our energy and ability to serve G-d.

The message of the prayer is a powerful one. We are saying, G-d, we totally want to be with You. But the Yetzer Hara and the exile just drain and sap our energy. Help us out so we can return to You. This is our deepest desire.

One way to bring us back to a state of sensitivity to sin is to express our deepest desire not to be in sin. At the end of the Shmoneh Esrei prayer, cry out to G-d (in a quiet voice, of course) that your deepest desire is not to be in sin. This is a tremendous form of teshuva in and of itself.

2.THE SHOFAR OF ROSH HASHANAH TEACHES US TO CRY OUT

One of the meanings behind the blowing of the Shofar is to precisely give us this message. Deep down in the bottom of our soul there is a pure part that is smothered by all the insanities of the day. That part is blocked out by our Yetzer Hara. When the Shofar is blown on Rosh HaShanah, the Yetzer Hara is confused. That gives us an opportunity to get in touch with the deepest parts of our essence that we do not have the ability to reach during the year.

It is precisely at that moment, when the Shofar is blown, that people are known to cry out to G-d from the bottom of their soul, “G-d, You are all that we want.’ It is exactly at that time, when their souls are exposed to the Al-mighty without any barriers, that they let go. (It is interesting to note that the Shofar is blown with different types of sounds to symbolize the different ways that a Jew cries. This is to show us that our heart should cry out to G-d when the Shofar is blown no matter who we are or what situation we are in.)

PART THREE-THE POWER OF CONTEMPLATION

1. WATCH AN EXPERT DO IT RIGHT

One of the ways to get back a lost sensitivity to sin is to watch an expert at a certain mitzvah do it right. This can often have the effect of causing us to see how far we have strayed from a certain mitzvah.

Choose a mitvzah you want to reawaken yourself to. Then think of who is the person that is the best at doing this mitzvah. For example, lets say you are trying to work on not saying Loshon Hara. And there is one guy in the yeshiva who is the great at maneuvering conversations away from Loshon Hara. Arrange to spend a Shabbos with him. Watch how he works. Learn his tools. And most of all, be inspired by his amazing qualities.

Once a Rabbi was sitting in Shul and someone approached him and started to speak Loshon Hara to him. He turned to the person with a warm and loving voice and said, “I have so many negative qualities of my own. Why do I have to hear about anyone else’s?” (Heard from a Rabbi in Aish Hatorah)

Once a student watched a Rabbi who was visibly late for a very important appointment take the time to say the Birchas HaMazon word for word with deep concentration. After the blessing the Rabbi said, “Just because I am clumsy enough to be late, should my prayers suffer? The student was deeply moved.

So find the experts in various mitzvahs and watch them do it right. Use this as a tool to inspire yourself to grow to where you should be.

2. EXAMINE YOUR FOUNDATIONS

One way to restore your sensitivities is to examine the foundations of your life. Take some time off between seder hours. Ask yourself the most basic questions:

What am I living for?
What am I doing and why am I doing it?
How much do I know that there is a G-d?
Do I really believe that Torah is true?
Do I really understand the power of Torah?
Why am I not as serious asI used to be? etc.

Many times during the year we work so hard that we lose sight of our priorities. We need to go back and ask ourselves why are we doing what we are doing. Many people have felt that one of the most powerful ways to return to that lost part of themselves is to examine their foundations. This sets apart those who fall into traps and those who don’t.

Don’t be scared to ask those questions that have been piling up inside you over the past twelve months or so. There is nothing wrong with working out issues. Find out where the holes are in your foundations and you will feel much better after you have filled them in. This is the time of the year to do such a cheshbon. This is the time to rededicate to get back to the basics of life and its purpose

3.GET IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF EVERY DAY

The reason we lose touch with ourselves and allow ourselves to sin is because we don’t take time every day to reconnect with our deepest desires and essence. Therefore, the solution to the problem is the obvious: We have to spend time alone everyday and make it a habit to keep in touch with what we want and what we are doing here on earth. This will never allow us to drift very far from good.

The foundations of piety and the root of perfection in the service of G-d lies in a man’s coming to see clearly and recognizing as a truth the nature of his duty in the world and the end towards which he should direct his vision and aspiration in all of his labors all the days of his life. (The Mesillas Yesharim, Perek 1)

CONCLUSION

Hopefully, the previous ideas will serve to inspire us to find the deepest parts of ourselves that are lost and return them to where they should be during these very important Ten Days of Teshuva.

5.01 The Ten Days of Teshuvah: Understanding the Fast of Gedalia

5.01 THE TEN DAYS OF TESHUVA: UNDERSTANDING THE FAST OF GEDALIA

INTRODUCTION

One of the most difficult aspects to understand about the Ten Days of Teshuva is the Fast of Gedalia (Tsom Gedalia). Right in the middle of working very hard on ourselves and growing and focusing on the issues of Tishrei, the Fast of Gedalia is suddenly thrown in. And we all have asked ourselves, what is this doing here now, in Tishrei when we are working on the issues of the High Holy Days? What is the connection between the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the Ten Days of Teshuva? The purpose of this sheet is to answer these perplexing questions and focus us to the issues that we should be concentrating during this very important fast day.

THE STORY OF TSOM GEDALIA

After the destruction of the First Temple and the exile of the majority of the Jewish People to Babylon, the wrath of the conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar, abated. He displayed a gentler attitude to the Jews and allowed some of them to remain in the Land of Israel. He even appointed a Jewish governor as their leader. His name was Gedalia, the son of Achikam. When this became known, Jews who had escaped from the horrors of the war into neighboring countries gradually returned to their towns and homesteads in Yehuda.

Gedalia understood the role that the Jewish People needed to play at this point in history in their relationship to the nations of the world. He understood that they needed to be obedient to the nations where G-d had delivered them. He understood that G-d inclines the hearts of kings to any direction that He wants and the Jewish People therefore had nothing to fear if they did what was right.

But ‘the remnant of Israel’ that stayed behind could not yield to G-d’s plans. Yishmael, the son of Netaniah, spurred on by jealousy and foreign influence, arose .and ignored the will of the King of Babylon. He treacherously killed Gedalia and most of the Jews and Babylonians that were around him. The day that this occurred was the third day of Tishrei, fifty-two days after the appointment of Gedalia, shortly after the Al-mighty had started bringing some rest from their suffering to the remnant of Yehuda.

In the aftermath of Gedalia’s murder, the remaining Jews’ spirits had sunk to their lowest level as they dreaded the reprisal of the king of Babylon. They planned to descend to Egypt to save themselves. But Egypt was the most defiled and corrupt of all the nations, and the Jews dreaded going there. So they turned to the Prophet Yermiahu, who was secluded in mourning, to ask for advice. For forty years they had not listened to the Prophet’s warnings, and now they stood before him shame-faced like a thief who was caught. ‘We will now listen to all that G-d will tell us,” they promised.

Yermiahu now tried to communicate with the Al-mighty but a partition of iron seemed to separate him from Hashem. G-d did riot seem to be responding to the plea of the Jewish People who now wanted to do teshuva. They turned to Him during the Ten Days of Teshuva, but they soon realized that Hashem was still angry with them.

Finally, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish People were forgiven. After many days of waiting, Yermiahu called in the leaders and told them that everything would be okay. In the near future, Hashem would make Babylonia act mercifully towards the Jewish People and He would return them and all their exiled brothers to their own soil. But if they decided to go to Egypt, the sword from which they were running would kill them there.

The Prophet’s words did not penetrate their ears and hearts and they refused to believe. They just could not believe that G-d would allow them to live in the Land after everything that had occurred. The generals gathered the whole remnant of the Jewish People and went down to Egypt. Thus they caused the the banishment from the Land to become complete and final.

Just a few years later, Babylon conquered Egypt and the exiles from Yehuda were completely wiped out by the sword. They fell and died by the thousands and tens of thousands. Not a survivor was left out of the whole remnant of the exiles with the exception of Yermiahu (who was kidnapped by the generals) and some of his disciples. Yermiahu’s prophecy had become painfully true.

The murder of Gedalia ben Achikam extinguished the last spark of hope for a renewal of Jewish life in the Holy Land. Now the destruction had become complete. Within seven years, the Land turned into a barren desert. For fifty-two years all living creatures shunned it.

The day Gedalia was killed has been likened to the day when the Temple was destroyed because it caused the end of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisroel for many years. The prophets declared that the anniversary of the tragedy should be a day of fasting. Thus, this day became a memorial to the murder of the righteous governor and the end of a Jewish precense in Yehuda. (Based on Toldas Am Olam, Horeb, and The Art-scroll History Series)

THE LESSONS WE LEARN FROM THE FAST OF GEDALIA

1. During the Ten Days of Teshuva we must realize that no matter how much we have transgressed. Hashem accepts our teshuva.

The Jewish People had sunk to one of the lowest levels ever in their history. Their Temple was destroyed, the majority of the Jewish People were exiled, and things looked hopeless. Finally, G-d decided to grant them mercy and change their desperate situation. By having Gedalia, a righteous man appointed, it looked as if the whole situation would radically improve. But things sunk even lower. Gedalia was murdered by a Jew and all hope was wiped out. At this point when the Jewish people were at their lowest level, they decided to do teshuva. This was during the Ten Days of Teshuva. Even at the height of His anger, Hashem relented and on Yom Kippur granted them forgiveness.

The fact that this story is memorialized during the Ten Days of Teshuva is no accident. It is to teach us the message of these days: Return no matter how far you are away and Hashem will forgive you.

2. There is an intimate connection between the Ten Days of Teshuva and the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash

The story of Gedalia is one of the saddest of the whole epoch of the destruction of the First Temple. It is so painful to hear about the opportunities to return that the Jewish People lost again and again. When we hear that a Jew murdered so many people, we are stunned and shocked.

The purpose of this day of remembrance is to get us to mourn the destruction of the Temple and the low level we descended to. By hearing this story, this will hopefully bring us to do teshuva on all our sins and bring back the Presence of G-d which we so desperately need.

How can I narrate the disaster when my sighing is so heavy. My soul is weary. My congregations are grieving. Our few remnants who have escaped the flames, even they could not stand firm and were scattered in wrath. How long still will You hide Your countenance from us? Hear our cry and loosen our bound ones. (Selichos of Tsom Gedalia)

During the Ten Days of Teshuva, when the opportunities to return to Hashem are the highest, we should mourn how far away from the Al-mighty we are, and this realization should bring us to teshuva.

3.Doing teshuva means submitting to G-d’s will at all times not iust when it agrees with what you want

Doing teshuva does not mean that you will listen to G-d only when you want.

The Jews who remained alive (after Gedalia’s murder), although not of such a wicked nature, still shared a deep-rooted tendency not to submit to G-d’s guidance. Although they were robbed of all outer independence, they still wanted to establish their affairs upon a basis of human independence and not G-dly dependence.

This became manifest again in the opposition to G-d’s command to wait for the clemency of Nebuchadnezzar. Their downfall was the result of their folly which would recognize as G-d’s will only that which coincided with their own. (Based on Horeb, R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, P. 144.)

This is another message for the Ten Days of Teshuva. Return to G-d in a real way in which you truly submit to His will no matter what. The leaders who went to Yermiahu to ask what to do only went because they were subconsciously sure that G-d would answer the way that they wanted Him to answer. When G-d didn’t answer the way they wanted Him to, they rebelled. It is very important during the Ten Days of Teshuva to ask yourself the question, am I submitting to G-d’s will only in the areas that I want or am I submitting even in areas that are not so comfortable for me?

4.During the Ten Days of Teshuva is the time to realize that not listening to G-d always leads to negative results

The leaders thought that it was impossible to stay in the Land and survive. Yermiahu told them otherwise. The outcome was that they ignored his advice and not one of them remained alive in the end.

This should be a lesson to us during the Ten Days of Teshuva. Even if all the evidence points in the opposite direction to that which the Torah says, listening to G-d in the end will lead to ultimate reward.

5.During the Ten Days of Teshuva is precisely the time to realize how important it is to be righteous

Many times during the Ten Days of Teshuva we might get discouraged by the difficulties involved in becoming righteous. And we wonder what is the whole teshuva process all worth. The story of the downfall of Gedalia is brought to clear away this confusion.

The Fast of Gedalia is enumerated together with the fast days for the destruction of the Sanctuary “to teach that the death of the righteous is as weighty as the burning of G-d’s house’ (Rosh HaShanah 18b). Years of great effort are needed to build a Sanctuary, and its benefits to the world are immense; but even more effort must be expended to develop a truly righteous man, and his death is an even greater loss than the burning of the Sanctuary. (Torah Nation, Avigdor Miller, p.13)

This information is brought to teach us how valuable it is to try our hardest to do teshuva during this very important time period.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this sheet was to help us understand the connection between Tsom Gedalia and The Ten Days of Teshuva. We hope that these insights will help us realize the tremendous opportunity that is offered on this day and let us rise to seize that opportunity.

4.04 Week 4-Understanding Teshuva and Selichos; Pathways to Cheshbon – Part 2

4.04 UNDERSTANDING TESHUVA AND SLICHOS: PATHWAYS TO CHESHBON Part 2

INTRODUCTION

In yesterday’s sheet, we spoke about different pathways that can be used to allow an individual to figure out his goals. After an individual has clarified his goals, there is another very important step that needs to be done. Some sort of system for monitoring his progress towards achieving them has to be set up. Today’s sheet discusses a few possible ideas that might be helpful in monitoring one’s goals.

PATHWAY #1-THE BALANCE APPROACH

Many of us live our lives from one day to the next without focusing on all the different areas of responsibility that we should. For example, many of us might hear a shmuez on a certain mussar topic that inspires us greatly, but then after a few days, the issue fades from our mind, and we move on to the next thing that bounces our way.

This approach calls for dividing your life into specific areas that you will monitor either weekly, monthly or any other time span that you approve of. Here is a sample breakdown of different areas of one’s life:

1. Cheshbon — making sure that one does a proper cheshbon that will insure a proper overview of one’s responsibilities.
2. Learning — making sure that you are growing and achieving your goals in all aspects of your learning.
3. Avodas Hashem (serving G-d) — making sure that you are on the right track in serving G-d. This would include overviewing your davening, blessings, and your overall relationship with G-d.
4. Character Traits and Emotions — making sure that you are working on improving your character traits and solving problems that might be holding you back in the emotional realm.
5. Global and Community Concerns — making sure you deal with your idealistic issues. What am I doing to make this world a better place to live in? Am I bringing Mashiach or distancing him?
6. Interpersonal Relationships — making sure that you are fulfilling all your responsibilities with your family and friends. This might include plans on how to show your family the beauty of Judaism.
7. Health — making sure you are healthy and taking care of yourself in the proper way.
8. Financial — making sure that you are on top of all your financial concerns.
9. Physical Concerns — making sure you are doing the things that you need to do in the physical world. For example, doing household repairs, buying a new suit, fixing your car, etc.

This is just a sample list of items that might go into your own personal list. Once you have come up with a list (one that you feel suits your personality), then you can come up with general goals that you want to accomplish in each area.

You don’t have to be involved with all the areas on your list at one time. For example, if you are a bochur living in the yeshiva you may not have so much to do with the Financial area. If you live in the dormitories the area of Physical Concerns might be something is not too big an issue. But for a kollel student who just bought an apartment, these areas might be very big concerns.

The main issue is to work on all the separate areas of your life before a crisis develops. For example, with a little bit of thought and effort, one might come up with a plan to bring his family on a trip to Israel to see the Yeshiva. This trip might lead to a much greater level of Jewish awareness for them and have a great influence on their future. The time to begin to get involved with your family is now not at a later stage when a major conflict might develop over your different values.

Another example, might be the Health area. Certain times we realize that we are not feelirg well. And we ignore it until we get headaches, nausea, etc. and then lose a day or two of learning. Then we call up the doctor to see him. If every week or month we ask ourselves how we are doing in the Health area, this might help us in the future not even require a doctor.

Practical Suggestions -1. Choose the areas of your life that you want to monitor. 2. Make general goals in each of these areas. 3. Every week or month look over the goals to see whether or not you are on track. 4.If you see that a potential difficulty might be brewing, take the time now to start dealing with it before it becomes a major problem later.

This approach is an excellent supplement to the pathways suggested in yesterday’s sheet. For example, one might make a set of yearly goals for Rosh HaShanah and is looking for a way to monitor them. This system is an excellent way to keep you balanced in overviewing all the commitments you made during the High Holy Day season.

Another important part of this system is to maintain focus on goals you have made which you are not presently involved with (because of other priorities). Many of us when involved in certain areas put on our blinders and plow ahead as fast as we can in that area we are involved in. For example, we might be learning very strong in order to help ourselves grow in order to take leadership positions one day. But that doesn’t mean in the meantime we should forget about the suffering of the Jewish People. That should be a primary motivation in our learning.

By focusing periodically on all the areas of our lives this will help keep us on track in every area.

PATHWAY #2-HAVE A PENALTY SYSTEM

This pathway is not for everybody. It is for people who like a strong, emotional incentive to get something done. The idea is to assign penalties for certain things that you very strongly want to get done. Lets say, for example, you want to get up every morning for davening. And it just isn’t happening. So you tell your friend who you are close with, “I will give you, Bli Neder, $5 for every davening I miss.” You also set up with him that if you do give him money, you can earn it back by doing certain mitzvos that are very hard for you to do. Let says you are memorizing Chumash Simonim and you hate reviewing. So you say to your friend, “If I review 50 Simonim a day I can make back my money.”

This system has been proven to strongly motivate people who have been unable to otherwise get moving in a certain area. But a few words of caution. Make all your commitments for a short time period only, say “Bli Neder” for each commitment, and only do this with a good friend. (Some people just give the money directly to charity so as not to cause their friend any uncomfortable feelings).

For someone who is looking for a strong way to get himself to keep his Rosh HaShanah commitments, this might be the direction for you.

PATHWAY #3-ASK YOURSELF EVERY DAY, “WHAT HAVE I DONE TODAY THAT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO SOMETHING VALUABLE BEING WRITTEN ON MY TOMBSTONE?”

We all remember, when we learned the “48 Ways to Wisdom,” the advice that was given to ask ourselves, “When I die what will be written on my tombstone? Will the answer be that I ate 10,000 chickens? Or drove two sports cars?” This is a tremendous way to focus to see if our lives are meaningful. This pathway suggests that a person ask himself every day, “What have I done today that will contribute to something valuable being written on my tombstone?”

The purpose of this Pathway is to allow us to see if our accomplishments really make an impact on our lives that we can be proud of. If they do then we know that our day was ultimately meaningful.

THE NEED TO BE PERSONAL

There are many different types of cheshbon systems that one can choose from in order to successfully monitor his goals this upcoming year. But one thing is crystal clear; everyone has their own way to do a proper cheshbon. You might try one and then find out that it isn’t for you. There is no “one” right way to do this for every person. If none of the suggestions on this sheet are for you, by all means don’t quit. Try and experiment with any system that you feel could be successful this upcoming year.

CONCLUSION

A man should observe all of his actions and watch over all of his ways so as not to leave himself with a bad trait, let alone a sin or a crime. I see a need for a person to carefully examine his ways and to weigh them daily in the manner of the great merchants who constantly evaluate all of their undertakings so that they do not go wrong. He should set aside definite times and hours for this weighing so that it isn’t a fortuitous matter, but one which is conducted with the greatest regularity; for it yields rich returns. (Mesillas Yesharirn, Perek Gimmel)

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