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Nisan 20

And if your brother is not close to you and you do not know him (Deuteronomy 22:2).

Perhaps the reason that other people are not close to you is because you do not know them.

The Chassidic master of Apt said: "As a young man, I was determined to change the world. As I matured, I narrowed my goals to changing my community. Still later, I decided to change only my family. Now I realize that it is all I can do to change myself."

Some things in the world are givens, and others are modifiable. The only thing we can really modify is ourselves. All other people are givens. Unfortunately, many people assume the reverse to be true. They accept themselves as givens and expect everyone else to change to accommodate them.

(There is one limited exception. When our children are small, we can teach and guide them. When they mature, however, we can no longer mold them.)

Trying to change others is both futile and frustrating. Furthermore, we cannot see other people the way they truly are, as long as we are preoccupied with trying to change them to the way we would like them to be.

The people we should know the most intimately are those who are closest to us. Yet it is precisely these people whom we wish to mold into the image we have developed for them. As long as this attitude prevails, we cannot see them for what they are. How ironic and tragic that those we care for the most may be those we know the least!

Today I shall...

try to focus any desires to change on myself and let other people determine for themselves who and what they wish to be.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

Published: May 21, 2009

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