Over the Rabbi’s Disk
Rabbi Howard S. Herman, D.D.
We have just begun a new secular year, 2023. We are full of hope, anticipation and desire that this year will be far and away better than last year. We are full of resolutions, and commitments to lose weight, to drink less, to live a healthier lifestyle, to exercise or walk every day, to be kinder, to listen better, to be a better partner, to be a better friend and to make up for all of the shortcomings we felt we had last year.
Why do we do this? Studies show that approximately 80% of all New Year resolutions fail. It got me thinking as to why so many resolutions peter out before February. It seems to me that most of us are unable to bring about significant change in our lives because there is consistently one key ingredient is missing.
That ingredient is an understanding of “why” we operate the way that we do and recognize what keeps us locked in specific “negative, self-sabotaging, or self-limiting behaviors that resist change. Once we acknowledge that we need to understand our mindsets, values, beliefs, habits and greatest fears, we begin to realize why certain goals are going to be so hard for us to achieve, and even more difficult to sustain, unless we commit to a deeper level of change. Whether your goal is to be happier, healthier, wealthier, stronger, more successful, or more fulfilled; achieving these goals requires you to be someone who is different from you, who you are today.
In Judaism, there is wisdom in adages that admonishes us to “change what you cannot accept, accept what you cannot change”. Hillel teaches us “If I am not for myself who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now when?” Rabbi Noah Weinberg teaches us: “Don’t be afraid of discovering that the ‘real you’ may be different from the current you.” Abraham Joshua Heschel said “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement... Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.
Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” All of these wise words encourage us to look for change as long as we acknowledge we need to first understand what it is that keeps us from getting there.
Real change comes about slowly and methodically. If we are looking for quick fixes to our behavior, our relationships, our outlooks, and our habits, they don’t exist. Slow and steady still wins the race. Let’s spend some quality time, this year looking at our habits, our behaviors, our attitudes, our assumptions and our goals. Perhaps we can make slow integral changes over time to accomplish our long-term goals. The old adage says: “keep your eye on the prize”. Part of our problem is that we are so very unrealistic. Not about the changes we hope to affect, but about the time period we expect these changes to occur. Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment to start to improve the world.” By the same token no one needs to wait to improve one’s self or one’s life. Begin the process, by all means, but don’t expect it will be completed in a neat thirty-day period. Get to know yourself and one’s ability along with one’s fears and self-limiting behaviors. Examine them closely and decipher what is needed to move forward in the direction you wish to move. It is hard work, but worth every bit of effort.
Rabbi Howard S. Herman