Rosh Hashanah's Three Important Words
When a person loses weight, gets into shape or makes money in a business venture everyone immediately wants to know his secret. Let me save you a lot of time and answer very simply: There is no secret... there's lots of hard work. Losing weight is not easy and neither is giving up smoking. Getting into shape requires lots of sweat and building a business means long hours away from the family. Yes, there are always the people who are the "lucky ones" where the weight melts away and the business turns into a gold mine overnight but those are the exceptions and not the rule. For 99% of us, there's tons of effort, dedication, failure and depression before things start turning around - and yes, it’s not easy. Never was and never will be. Hard work, a focused plan and an attitude that we will not quit until the job is done - no matter what. All of that is true in the material, physical world, but what about the spiritual world? What about all those things we want to improve in our service of Hashem? Unfortunately, throughout the years I have seen incredible people do stupid things. I have seen people who have risen to the greatest heights, who have overcome the most difficult challenges and who have turned little grocery stores into a chain of supermarkets fall into spiritual traps that they cannot get out of. People who are tigers in a courtroom, lions in a boardroom and ferocious bears taking over Wall Street companies become little kittens in a shul and cute bunnies in their service of Hashem. What happened to their strength, their tenacity and their energy? Why is it that the same guy who runs a 3 hour marathon cannot sit for more than 10 minutes in a shiur? Why is the man who stood strong - day after day - in breaking his smoking addiction not able to be just as strong when it comes to being quiet in shul? Why is it that a woman can control her diet and lose 50 lbs. in a very serious food program but cannot stop talking lashon hara for more than 5 minutes? The answer is simple, and I wrote it above. Just like there's no secret to success in the physical world, there's no secret to success in the spiritual world as well. The same hard work, dedication and persistent/consistent effort is needed, day after day, in serving Hashem and being part of the Jewish Nation. Allow me to sum it up in 3 easy, but very deep words: Make It Happen! These are the 3 most important words - right now - in the days before Rosh Hashanah. No, those 3 words are not "Happy New Year" or "Pass the honey" or "Love that shofar". Rather, the words we must engrave on our souls to be ready to serve the Creator are "Make It Happen". Let me explain. We all know that our shuls need to be quiet. Nobody needs to lecture anyone about that. Yet time-after-time the shuls are more like circuses than places of worship. The reason is because very few people work hard at making it happen. When the person next to you starts talking, turn away, walk away or simply put your finger on your lips in a nice gesture that says, "Not now". Trust me, the guy will get the message. He will probably turn to the person sitting on the other side of him and try his luck there. If Mr. Talker receives the same response, he will start changing his ways. Just like pushing away the cheesecake is necessary to lose weight, pushing away a talking neighbor is necessary to make our shuls quiet again (Hey, great slogan - Make Our Shuls Quiet Again!). In short, you want a quiet shul? Make It Happen. We all know that Jews need to learn Torah. Once again, nobody needs to lecture us on that. But how many of us dedicate serious amounts of time to that vital part of our lives? What's the solution? Simple! To get into physical shape we join a gym, so to get into spiritual shape we... read a Jewish newspaper on Shabbat??? Come on, brother - get off that couch and make it happen. Go to a shiur, get a chavruta and learn with your children. Shut the TV and open a sefer. Call a few friends together and arrange a weekly night to learn, not just play poker. Hire a Rav to give the shiur - there are hundreds of amazing young Rabbis who will gladly give a weekly shiur in your home for a nominal fee. In short, you want Torah in your life this year? Make It Happen.
I can go on and on with dozens of examples but I think you understand my point. It’s not enough to just want a closer connection to Hashem, you have to work hard at it and make it happen. Watching your weight means being careful what goes IN your mouth while watching your lashon hara means being careful what goes OUT of your mouth. It’s just as hard but far more rewarding! This applies to every aspect of serving our Father and King; from the way we dress (men too, not just women!) to the way we conduct our business dealings. Being a Torah Jew means "Making It Happen" 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. It requires determination, focus and lots of positive energy but it's all worth it because we were chosen for this job above 99% of the world so Hashem knows we can do it. This coming year - 5779 - let's promise ourselves that we won't just sit on the side. We will accomplish the task we have been given; to be strong, proud and complete Jews as part of the Jewish Nation. This year, we will be Jews who will... Make It Happen!
Shana Tova to one and all.
Image: By Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60801999