11 Tamuz 5781 / Monday, June 21, 2021 | Torah Reading: Balak
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Keeping Our Resolutions    

Keeping Our Resolutions

Now that we are starting the year, it gets more difficult to keep up the new year resolutions we made during the High Holy Days. There is some simple advice to keep you going!


In one of Rabbi Elimelch Biederman’s weekly Torah publications, he relates the following parable told by the Bais Avraham: 


An alcoholic decided he couldn't go on living as a drunk. He made a promise to himself never to take another drink, get a job and put his life in order. 


The next morning, he was thirsty. He began walking towards the bar, but midway he remembered his new resolution and returned home. By noon he was thirsty again and walked almost halfway to the bar before he remembered his resolution and turned back. During the afternoon there were another couple of times when he felt an extraordinary need to drink and started walking towards the bar, only to stop himself again. 


At the end of the day, he looked back and rejoiced in his success. He said I had a very challenging day. I had numerous difficult tests. I almost failed but I was strong like iron and I kept my resolve. For this, I deserve a reward. He went to the bar to celebrate. 


We have just finished an uplifting series of holy days in which we made resolutions to improve ourselves during the upcoming year. By now, we have hopefully tasted a degree of success and made some progress. However, we need to remember that the Evil Inclination did not sign on to our positive resolutions. Quite the contrary, he will not roll out the red carpet. He’ll do everything in his power to tempt us, distract us, to obstruct and reverse our initial progress. We need to think about this story and remember to be resolute with our resolutions. How can we successfully meet this imposing challenge? 


Rabbi Shalom Arush recommends that we take the area that we have made a commitment to improve and study the topic extensively. Try to read numerous books and articles about the benefits of improving in that area and the costs of continuing the dysfunctional behavior. A simple tip is to find these topics in The Garden of Emuna and other books, and read, and re-read the sections on that trait for as long as it takes, until we are so clear in our daat – holy knowledge – on the subject, that we just can’t bring ourselves to make that mistake again, no matter what the circumstances.  


He also says that we should pray at length, preferably for half an hour per day. We can't possibly win the battle with the Evil Inclination on our own. We need help from Hashem. When we make a commitment to improve our character traits and overcome negative behavior, Hashem will be happy to assist us when we ask for His help. Part of our prayers should also be that Hashem should strengthen our resolve to fix the issue, and to not give up until we have achieved our goal - no matter how long it takes or how challenging it becomes to continue. 


We also have to expect that we're not going to make unremitting progress. There will be setbacks and failures along the way. The biggest mistake we can make is to throw in the towel and give up. We need to speak to Hashem and ask for his forgiveness, patience and help going forward: “Hashem, I'm sorry that I failed to keep my commitment. I know you must be very disappointed. From this moment on, I desire to come close to You. I’m making a new beginning! Please help me in the future not to make this mistake again!” When we do this, not only do we get back on track, but we actually go to a higher level than we were before the fall. 


Don’t forget that teshuva – repentance – is a mitzvah! Hashem understood that humans would not be perfect and built teshuva into the system. We must remember that when we sincerely repent, Hashem is so proud of us, and we come even closer to Hashem than we were before the sin. This can give us the comfort, strength, and encouragement we need to continue. 


In the Tanya, in very first chapter, the Alter Rebbe cites the Gemara and informs us that before a soul comes to this world, the person is required to sign a pledge that he or she will be a Tzaddik. How can we be expected to sign such a pledge? The reason is that Hashem gives us all the tools we need to succeed to become righteous and fulfill our mission and soul correction. Moreover, He loves us with an eternal and infinite love. He is always willing and able to help us overcome our most difficult challenges. 


Study, prayer and repentance are ongoing objectives. They're not limited to the month of Elul, the Ten Days of Repentance, and Succot. These are three pillars of our way of life. In the merit of regular Torah study, prayer and repentance, may we succeed in being resolute in our resolutions and become new and better people in this fledgling year! 



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