With the conclusion of both the Democrat and Republican conventions, the 2008 Presidential election campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain, with the sprint to the finish line in November, has begun in earnest.
With the onset of the Jewish month of Elul, and with Rosh Hashana a few weeks away, the High Holiday season has begun in earnest as well.
What does one have to do with the other? There is actually a strong connection between these two disparate events.
Obama has established the words of "Change" and "Hope" as his main campaign theme. McCain's campaign slogan is "Reform. Prosperity. Peace."
McCain has declared in his speeches, "We cannot forever hide the truth about ourselves, from ourselves… We must change what must be changed and make the future better than the past. We must rethink, reform, and re-invent."
Obama has stated that, "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek…This is our moment. This is our time."
Sounds like a Rosh Hashana sermon to me.
This is the time of year when we are looking to change, to reform, to rethink, and to reinvent ourselves. This is the time of year when we are trying to strengthen and improve our relationship with God. Now is the time we must tell ourselves that "Yes we can" become better people.
But how do we accomplish it? In past years we made new resolutions for the New Year but they didn't go so well. How can we ensure that this year's commitments won't become just words?
We are inspired during the High Holidays and we want to change but usually a few days after Yom Kippur our inspiration dwindles. This is the human condition. We are resilient to a fault. Experiences that moved me today eventually wear off. How long will that motivating speech on controlling anger ring in your ears?
Our resolutions don't usually last more than a couple of days. How can we make the motivation last? How do we maintain the momentum?
GROWING IN STAGES
Here's a key. When we are motivated to change, we need to think of some small area in which we can grow. If we take on something too overwhelming and drastic, then it is all the more likely to fail.
Channel your spiritual yearning toward small, incremental steps that you know you can accomplish without Herculean effort.
Channel your spiritual yearning toward small, incremental steps that you know you can accomplish without Herculean effort. Once that step becomes your second nature, take on the next step. Don't stop – keep growing, one small step at a time. Consistent, steady growth needs to be done gradually. Taking on too much, too fast usually doesn't last.
For example, take Torah study. If you're just starting out, commit to learning a 5 minutes a day, or one half hour a week. If you're already doing that, commit to adding a few extra minutes each day. You can decide to perform an extra act of kindness daily, or make sure to smile at one person every day.
There are thousands of small things we can change. Of course, the long-term goal is to increase amounts and levels of change but we must start slowly if we are to change at all.
If we make just a small, manageable change, then over a lifetime, these changes will produce the transformation we are all looking for.