This article was printed in the Cleveland Jewish News.
We are now a mere 10 days away from Rosh Hashanah. During these proceeding days, we reflect over the past year as we prepare for the Day of Judgment. We look at what we have accomplished, how we have grown as people, and we take stock of our challenges and setbacks. This is the time where we assess our situation and place in life, and make a game plan for the upcoming year.
Human nature is to engage in two different, yet equally counterproductive, tactics to try to accomplish these daunting tasks:
Tactic 1: We totally ignore the time of year and miss out on its propitious nature. We dismiss the opportunity to prepare ourselves, reflect on the past year, or set goals for self-improvement, and thus find ourselves unchanged when G-d’s divine judgment is upon us.
Tactic 2: We do take advantage of this time and opportunity for assessment and growth. We make lists, we identify how we need to change and evaluate our progress. Unfortunately, this tactic is not without its pitfalls. All too often, we make long lists of how we want to improve. We become very ambitious, and set out to do everything, to climb the tallest mountains and run the most rigorous of marathons.
But everyone knows that it takes more than just a declaration of intent to climb Everest or to finish a marathon in record time, or even at all! In fact, it takes more than just the right gear, or a through plan of attack, to accomplish these goals. It takes extensive training, commitment, and above all, the knowledge that quitting is not an option.
As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, it is the time for us to go through the spiritual training required to attain personal growth, change, and become the people we strive to become. But if we do not keep our pace steady, and run further, or climb higher every day, we do not develop the stamina required to go the distance.
Without utilizing this strategy, which every accomplished athlete knows is the key to success, we might make it through the 10 days of repentance, but I guarantee you that by Chanukah, we will be the same exact people that we were before the new year started. It requires identifying small, tangible goals, and marking our progress. This ensures that we have what it takes to achieve greatness, one day at a time.