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Trained Behavior

Thursday, 16 August, 2012 - 9:57 am

The month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish year is upon us (begins this Shabbos). It is know in Chasidic circles as the month of Cheshbon Hanefesh, spiritual stocktaking to assess what losses and profits we have had this year in terms of our observances and personal developments. If you would a spiritual inventory.

When taking a look at the past year you may have this recurring sense that "I really wanted to change that practice or embrace that behavior, I did it for a day a week but I couldn't maintain it beyond that". In other words we often times have good intentions to do the right thing or not do the wrong thing but we just aren't consistent with our resolve.

One might feel a sense of personal chracther deficiency in that you just can't be committed. In Chasidic practice the ultimate is internal transformation. In fact a practice that is unimpressive is ritual - behavior that has lost its meaning and is just about doing it out of rote. However, it is ok to train yourself to a particular behavior and then to bring in the meaning and depth later.

Among the many suggestions in the self help books is a commitment to a behavior for a certain period of time until indeed it becomes second nature.

Here is a suggestion for you; create a chart with 29 days on it representing the 29 days of the month of Elul.(or download one here) Pick that practice that you find hard to change but would really like to. Check off that chart each evening before you go to sleep and after you recite the Shema that you accomplished that practice that night. Make that change in your life and show up on Rosh Hashanah with that paper in hand. I am sure that Gd will respond in kind with a blessed new year!

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