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3 steps to personal growth

Thursday, 22 September, 2016 - 10:37 pm

Written by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie,
Sydney Australia

The upcoming Jewish month of Tishrei, is a time of spirituality and strong Jewish experience. During this period we all endeavor to feel inspiration and connection to our inner soul. It is a time to reflect on the past and plan for a stronger future with meaning, purpose and growth.

As part of this journey we celebrate the three festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos. These three festivals are not independent celebrations that happen to fall out in the same month. They are all part of one process.  Together they create a three part model for effective change, spiritual growth and personal development.

Rosh Hashanah - Fundamental commitment: On Rosh Hashanah the prayers do not mention any specific deficiencies or failings. We blow the simple sound of the Shofar, representing a deep cry and yearning of the soul to move beyond our comfort zone to a better year. Before focusing on any specific behavior or personality we must first want to change. In order for our resolutions to be meaningful and sustainable we begin with a fundamental deep commitment to change and an intense determination not to be complacent or apathetic. On Rosh Hashana we declare our readiness to embark on that journey of growth and improvement.

Yom Kippur - Practical growth: Now that we have expressed the desire to improve we need to design a practical plan. The Yom Kipppur Machzor (prayer book) deals extensively with a long list of specific areas of weakness. Yom Kippur is the day to devise a detailed, manageable program of growth for the next year. This plan needs to be practical, manageable and realistic, but one that demonstrates real improvement. We need to identify a few areas in our relationships and Mitzvah observance, and develop all the steps that will help us reach the desired goals.

Sukkos - Optimism and joy: This is perhaps the most important step of all. Growth can only happen with happiness, optimism and confidence. Sadness and depression breed insecurity, overwhelm the individual and create spiritual paralysis. Sukkos is a time of great celebration. It is a time to nurture a feeling of happiness with our life and its purpose. It is a time to declare that personal growth and spiritual aspirations are not a burden or an imposition, but rather a celebration of life filled with meaning and depth. The sources refer to this festival as "the time of our joy". We celebrate the opportunity to be closer to G-d throughout the next year and He celebrates and treasures every positive move that we make. Like at a wedding reception we dance, sing and say L'chaim getting ready to enjoy each others company for yet another year.

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