Friday, August 16, 2013

Stop beating yourself up!

An older, somewhat cynical, man once listed three great Jewish heroes for his grandson: Samson, King David and Morris Levine. The young boy knew the story of Samson's valiant battles against the Philistines and of King David's bravery against Goliath, but he had never heard of Mr. Levine.
"Who did Morris Levine fight with?" the curious youngster asked.
"Everyone," grandad wryly replied.
Jews are not natural warriors, but we sure seem to know how to fight. With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, we're meant to reflect on who we may have riled up and then get in touch with them to ask their forgiveness. Over this same period, we're also meant to reflect on our personal shortcomings and invest some time and effort in trying to fix them.
In summary: Now's when we say sorry to those we've fought with, and start fighting with ourselves.
Because anyone will tell you that taking stock of our spiritual standing is a battle. And trying to do something about improving it is an all-out war. I'm sure you know the feeling: You decide that it would be a good idea to exercise more, study more, be more attentive to your family or give more charity. Your extreme make-me-over looks great on paper, yet as soon as you try implement it, those dreams quickly change turn into one frustrating scrimmage. 
But, what are our options? Roll over and play failure? Resign ourselves to mediocrity? Jews are definitely too high-achieving for that. So, we go on fighting (and feeling fustrated).
You may remember the story of the duke who challenged the village fools to drive darkness out of a room. One swung wildly at the blackness with a baseball bat, another screamed at the gloom to leave and a third clapped and stamped to frighten the shadows away. Fighting with ourselves to try and better ourselves is about as effective as their inane attempts.
To live illuminated, we need to engage with light, not tackle darkness. In Jewish mysticism you will find one sure-fire way of moving ahead spiritually- learn more Torah. Torah inspires. It switches on your inner beacon. By learning, you don't only collect info and gain insight. Learning Torah draws G-d's wisdom into your life, and that offers you a new and refreshing perspective on everything.
It's really our choice: Fight on or light up. For optimum results: Try option 2.

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