Thursday, June 28, 2018


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Balak –Avos Perek 6
16 Tamuz 5778/June 29, 2018

Shortly before Pesach vacation began in Heichal HaTorah this year, a conscientious student who takes his spiritual growth seriously asked to speak with me in my office. The student said that with only a few days left before vacation he was finding that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to concentrate on learning. As is wont to happen in the waning days of the z’man (Yeshiva semester), especially at the end of a long winter, some fellow students were becoming somewhat lax in their learning. After admiring his desire to not waste the last few days, I told the student that I felt the best way to motivate himself to keep learning was to set himself goals of what he could accomplish in that short period of time.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt’l (Alei Shur) writes that we have an innate resistance to major and sudden changes. When a person tries to make sudden changes in his lifestyle, his body’s automatic response is to resist and thereby force the person back into the comfort zone of his habits. 
So how can one foster changes and improvements in his personality and nature? The answer is by setting for himself small goals that require gradual changes. When one makes incremental changes, he is able to bypass that initial knee-jerk innate rebelliousness. He doesn’t arouse the automatic resistance that emerges from innately feeling threatened by suddenly being thrust out of his comfort zone. Generally drastic changes last a few days at best, before one slips back into his previous routines and comfort zone.
So, what’s the best way to push yourself to accomplish even (or especially) when you’re not in the mood or when your surrounded by sluggishness? By setting attainable goals for yourself. Doing so helps you focus your energy and commit yourself to complete your self-imposed goals.
Someone once noted that a goal without a time frame is usually a mere fleeting dream. Even the best of intentions and aspirations are nebulous unless there is a manageable goal within a specific time frame.
The summer is a great opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Hashem’s world. But it also means Elul and Rosh Hashanah are not too far away. I once saw a great quote: “Do teshuva now; avoid the Yom Kippur rush!” By being proactive and setting for himself attainable goals during these summer months, one can arrive at the onset of Elul with a feeling of confidence that this year he can actually live up to some of the lofty spiritual aspirations he has for himself.
May we all have the wisdom to use the summer well, to grow in all areas.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
              R’ Dani and Chani Staum