Archive for September, 2010

Manny Ramirez and the High Holy Days

Monday, September 6th, 2010

There are two types of resolutions we need to think about as Rosh Hashanah approaches. One is long range, what do I want to change for the upcoming year. For that kind of resolution, it is important to select an attainable goal, a small step that you can work on and acquire. It can be a big mistake to bite off a big step that you aren’t really ready to take.There is, however, a second commitment. It is the commitment that may be larger and more aggressive, but is only for the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. A two week commitment. That can be more aggressive, because what we are able to sustain for two weeks is much different than the whole year. So, a person can take leap regarding Kosher, Shabbos, prayer and the like and make their best effort to sustain it until Yom Kippur.The question is what purpose is there to commitment number two? Am I fooling G-d? Trying to pretend I am someone who I am not during the trial, just so I can get a favorable result? That seems hypocritical! The answer to that question is a fundamental understanding of who we are. Obviously, we aren’t fooling anyone, especially G-d. We are trying to make the following statement to Hashem (and ourselves) “ Even though I normally am not as engaged as I should be, when it really counts, you’ll see what I’m made of!”Let’s explain with an analogy, using Manny Ramirez. The White Sox traded for Manny, knowing that he has a reputation of being a problem. Knowing that he never sustains a full season of focus, and can go weeks without making an effort. But, they also know something else about Manny, he knows how to show up when it really counts. Come September and October he usually finds his focus, raises his game, and performs for his team. When Manny can no longer turn it on in playoff time, Manny will stop getting a job in baseball.While we don’t consider Manny’s way admirable and while he hurts his legacy doing things like that, the fact is, he retains value because at least he knows how to step it up for the big stage. Similarly for us, we certainly hurt our value by not being as engaged in Torah and Judaism as we need to be. By showing up and performing when it counts is our way of showing we still have value, we are still worth the effort and we know who we really are. We are just “Manny being Manny” (meaning, we aren’t malicious in our bad deeds, just often clueless to the severity and gravity of our actions as we make choices based on our mood and desire of the moment) the other 11 months of the year, but that isn’t the real us. This focused person is the real us that we want to show Hashem as we are being judged.

Pre – Rosh Hashanah story and thought

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I heard a true story this Shabbos that just happened and is quite inspirational. Upon reflection it really has a powerful message for us these next two days.

There is a family in town that has been growing their Judaism these past several years, with Aish Hatorah being a key partner in their development. The wife has taken two Judaism missions to Israel and has found them to be greatly inspiring. The husband (who has never been to Israel) very much wanted to go on the men’s trip this fall, but wasn’t sure if he could afford it. After much vacillating on the subject, he finally decided a couple of weeks ago that the $3000 was just too much and he would have to make it work some other time.

The next day, he gets an email from his brother urging him to go on because he has unclaimed money there. Amazingly, he logs on and finds out that he has almost exactly $3000 in unclaimed dollars that were his sitting at the state! He took this as a sign from heaven that he should go and signed up for the trip ASAP!

The inspirational part of this story that Hashem is watching us and guides us is enough to make us stop and think about things.

I would like to take the story one step further. How many of us have unclaimed blessing in heaven? How much was set aside for us last Rosh Hashanah that we never claimed because we didn’t follow through over the course of the year? Perhaps we can still access it if we “log into” ourselves with a strong spiritual push these next two days.

Let’s all make our strongest run at any unclaimed Bracha in heaven and make sure not to leave it behind.