There is a sense of hope in the air as the new solar year begins. While the Jewish people celebrated the beginning of our calendar on Rosh Hashanah, we live in a country that follows the solar calendar. People are celebrating the end of 2020 and the promise of a new year. The vaccine will roll out to billions of people as the world looks forward to a return to normalcy. Even when everything is normal, many people begin to think of the future at this time of year. Hopefully, they leverage this time to assess the choices made in the past. It is their time to celebrate the wins and improve on any failures or lapses. The new year represents hope for doing better in the coming time.
Religious Jews need not wait for a particular day to evaluate their lives. Hashem is always waiting for us to return to Him. We can make things right whenever the inspiration strikes. That is why Yom Kippur does not come in the first month of the Jewish calendar. It is always a good time for each of us to reassess and think about where we are headed.
Take a moment right now and consider the things that are on your mind. Are they big life questions like where you are heading and if you feel fulfilled and happy? Or are they relatively minor distractions which contribute little to your larger picture? Are you being pulled in so many different directions that you can’t even think about where you are heading? Welcome to the club. That is a major weapon in the arsenal of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination. It makes us feel so overwhelmed and busy that we cannot possibly think. Are we so busy surviving or putting out the fires that there is nobody at the rudder to steer us in the right direction?
I have always been fortunate to have a Rav who helps direct my decisions, from minor questions to major life choices. The Torah is the ultimate source of all knowledge and is applicable to our everyday lives. By allowing a Torah scholar into our lives and making him part of our choices we surrender a bit of control in deference to someone who has a better grasp of how to live our best life. That is not to say that we are going to live at their level of spirituality or deprivation. These people have dedicated their lives to learning and teaching. They are better attuned to the human condition than many so-called gurus. By probing the complexities of the written and oral law, the genuine Torah scholar gleans a vast array of knowledge that can be applied to any situation. That is why a Gadol, a leader of a generation, is sought for advice by the multitudes.
Regardless of your personal level of religious observance, you can benefit from having this kind of relationship. You may find that a Rav welcomes your questions with warmth and patience. In Ethics of the Fathers (1:16), Rabban Gamliel says, “Appoint for yourself a Rav and remove doubt…”
This is not a random platitude. I have personally benefited time and again from having a close relationship with a Rav. I encourage you to give it a try. While you are at it, take some time for yourself at the beginning and end of each day. Put down the phone, eliminate any other distractions, and take a few minutes to think about what you want to happen today while you feel refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Then before you go to bed take a few minutes and think about how things went. Did you accomplish the things that were on your mind when you woke up? Did you fail or disappoint yourself in any way? Try to take a few notes. Reflect on these notes the next day and see what you can do to improve or better accomplish your goals. This will keep the days from seeming like a hamster on a wheel, quickly going nowhere. You may find that this simple exercise provides amazing rewards.