Three Steps to Genuine Change
Getting free from our self-erected prison.
One of the most harrowing pictures I ever saw appeared in Newsweek. The camera caught a glimpse into a life that had, in many senses, vanished before it even began. A child, who could not have been more than three or four years old, was carrying building materials. We would call him a pre-schooler; in today's Sudan, he ― and his parents ― are slaves.
He can be purchased by just about anyone; someone looked at him and saw two arms that will grow larger and stronger. It is not likely that they saw a mind or a soul. In the Newsweek interview, the child had no idea of the name of his country or his village. Looking at him from my home in Jerusalem, I mourned for his childhood far more than he did. I silently wished that he would somehow be able to return to himself and learn that he is more than his two strong arms.
Our thoughtless enslavement to mindless routine can leave us without much of a relationship to our souls.
In the course of our lives, we close doors to higher and deeper selves and sometimes forget that we, too, are more than earners, spenders, and travelers through life. Our thoughtless enslavement to mindless routine can leave us without much of a relationship to our souls. In a materialistic society, it is all too easy to view others as competitors. As toddlers we observed that when you have three cookies and give one away, all you have left are two. From that point onward we are afraid to give.
The problem is that the soul, unlike the body, thrives on giving, and on the love that is its offspring.
The Process of Change
When it comes to personal growth, we all have good intentions. But how do you translate that into actual improvement?
Elul and the High Holidays is a very special season. It's a time to take advantage of a special opportunity to work on ourselves: to change, be great and fulfill dreams. It's a new beginning to finally do those things you've always sensed you were capable of, but never followed through.
Every Elul starts off with the same high expectations -- that there will be a whole new world and things will never be quite the same again. Unfortunately, the initial enthusiasm all too often gives way to a somber reality; enthusiasm tapers off and you end up not too different from before you started. Of course, you do grow slowly, year after year, but the big breakthrough -- becoming the person you know you can and should be -- never seems to materialize. It remains an elusive dream.
How do you take all the initial goodwill, enthusiasm and excitement -- and parley it into significant and lasting change? In other words, how do you make the High Holiday season really work?
Changing Your Head Space
A Rosh Hashanah greeting from Sara Esther Crispe, editor of TheJewishWoman.org