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The First Step
There was a couple, Josh and Amy, who had begun their journey towards Jewish observance, but they had not yet made a full commitment to keep Shabbat and kosher. Each time they thought about making this decision, they drew back. It seemed too complex and overwhelming.

One year before Rosh Hashanah, Josh felt inspired. He came home and told his wife, “This year, let’s take the plunge. Let’s make our home kosher.”

Amy was of a more practical mindset. “The holidays are coming up and it will be a lot of work. Why don’t we wait until after the holidays to become more religious?”

*

Josh and Amy are not alone. Each of us, in our own way, faces similar obstacles and challenges when we try to make positive changes in our lives. Inertia is a powerful force that keeps us from moving forward. Whether in spiritual matters, or in physical matters such as to diet or to quit smoking – our resolutions last only until the familiar cravings hit. Then we rationalize – “The diet starts tomorrow.”

In Ethics of Our Fathers, our sages say, “One should never say, ‘I will study when I have time,’ because one may never have time.” Don’t push off the good resolutions for tomorrow. Don’t think that by tomorrow conditions will improve and it will get easier to carry out your plans. For all you know, tomorrow new obstacles will crop up that will make it more difficult – especially if you have not yet made the first move. But once you have taken one small step, from there the path will open and widen, so that accomplishing your goals will get easier and easier.

The month of Elul, the final one in the Jewish calendar, is the best possible time for accepting good resolutions. This is the time to let go of our past mistakes and start afresh. G-d grants us the powers we need to start the year off right and keep our resolutions. We only need to take advantage of the opportunity.

This is not to say that obstacles won’t crop up. We know that the path to real change is never easy, and we need to be prepared. But the promise of Elul is that these obstacles will not stop us. To accomplish any worthwhile goal we must invest energy and overcome hurdles – but the rewards in the end are incalculable. In the month of Elul we are granted an extraordinary opportunity to do teshuvah – to return to G-d and forge a close bond with Him. What more could we ask for?* Unfortunately, as long as we are still in exile, we are unable to reap the full benefit of our labors, as our ability to sense spirituality is very limited. Only when Moshiach comes will we be able to fully appreciate our spiritual reward. Observance of Torah and mitzvoth in the time of exile is like walking in darkness – we know we are moving forward on the path but we don’t see the progress we’re making. However, when we face our difficulties head on, this brings out in us enormous latent powers and increases the forces of holiness in this world – until the final victory, with the coming of the Redemption
 

 


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