Are you too busy?
Every generation has its own challenges. One of the challenges of our generation seems to be taking the time for what we truly value. Most people are stressed out about time. Even though our homes are filled with more time-saving machines then ever before, many of us feel we just don’t have enough time for life.
One of the kabbalists points out the message from the story of Pharaoh in Egypt. He wanted to keep the Israelites so busy they didn’t have time to realize their own inherent strength in their masses. He is the symbol of the “yetzer hara”, evil inclination. Something inside us wants us to be too busy for spirituality, too busy for introspection. If we just think about our life, our actions, and what we truly believe in, we will be compelled to change ourselves for the better.
What’s your biggest excuse for not spending more time on study, prayer, family etc.? Are you letting your yetzer hara help you with time management?
Where’s your battlefield?
In order to win the battle of life, we have to know where the front lines are. All of life is meant to be challenges, in every single area. If you are an atheist, your challenge is to be agnostic. If you are agnostic, your challenge is to believe in God. If you believe in God, your challenge is to strengthen that belief with convincing arguments, evidence, and facts. If you’re 100% convinced, your challenge is to understand the nature of God, His infiniteness, His kindness, His justice.
If you understand God, your challenge is to accept His Torah and reject the philosophies of others. If you accept His Torah, your challenge is to accept His Oral Tradition. If you accept the entire Torah, written and oral, your challenge is to become knowledgeable in all areas of Torah.
If there are 613 commandments then there are at least that many types of challenges we face. Not all of the commandments are applicable to all of us at all times, but each one is a spiritual principle that is attached to a separate part of our soul that needs to be perfected. This is called Tikkun Neshama. Many people these days are focused on Tikkun Olam, fixing the world. Some people forget, though, that if we don’t fix ourselves, we probably won’t be able to fix the world the right way.
Similarly, it says in the Torah, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why doesn’t it just say “love your neighbor”? Because if you don’t yet love yourself, how can you love others? If you live a physically unhealthy lifestyle, or don’t take care of your spiritual needs, then you don’t like yourself very much. Yet people like this are the first ones to criticize others. Because their dissatisfaction with themselves gets reflected onto the world.
By noticing the flaws in others, we deflect attention off of ourselves. So it’s psychologically satisfying to notice the problems of others. Sometimes when someone asks me a question like, “Why does Suzie dress like that?” I like to respond, “I don’t know, but I’ve got my own flaws I haven’t figured out yet.”
Even though it makes us feel better to put someone else down, it doesn’t last. We still wake up the next day with our flaws. Only by introspection do we notice our flaws, and then we can make a plan for the future to change and grow. The Almighty knows it’s difficult to change over night. He doesn’t expect that.
He does, however, want to see we’re working on a plan for growth.
One of the best ways to figure out an opportunity for growth comes with children. No not just learning patience and understanding, but the one flaw that drives you crazy in your child, chances are, is something that you have inside you that you don’t like. Nothing is an accident.
The things that make you upset with your spouse, your next door neighbor, and your co-worker are there for a reason. Instead of figuring out how to get even or manipulate them, think about how to change yourself so that the problem doesn’t bother you. Nothing is an accident.
Time for an accounting
Now is the time, these next two to three weeks, in the month of Elul, before and during the holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, even through the week of Succot to introspect. These are the mystical days of character assessment, and spiritual accounting. Make a plan for the next year to work on increasing spiritual knowledge and character refinement. To be wiser, to be happier, to be less petty, to care about people more.
It’s not complicated. God wants us just to work on being better people. There are tools and wisdom out there for any particular area of spiritual growth you decide to work on. If you open the door a crack, He’ll take you the rest of the way.
Sit down for just five or ten minutes. Make a short list of things you’d like to work on for the next year.