Now that we have entered a new year and the holidays are over, we return to “business as usual.” As we progress forward, we often forget about the past. Chazal tell us that this is a mistake. Based on the pasuk “Binu Sh’nos dor Vador” (Devarim 32:7), Rashi tells us that knowing history is important. He tells us that we are supposed to remember the mistakes of the generation of Enosh and the great flood, etc., as that will help a person remain on the straight and narrow path.
I would like to apply this idea to our state at this time of year. The freshness of the new year urges us to look forward and not over our shoulders at the mistakes that we have done. This is indeed a test to see if we are “guys who are wise” or just “wise guys”. One of the things that has struck me over the years is that people fall into the same pattern of mistakes. In fact, I once read in a study that over 80% of dissatisfied customers return to shop in the store in which they were dissatisfied with, punishing themselves despite knowing that what they are doing was utterly ridiculous. It is truly so hard to change! How can we overcome falling into this routine?
A classic example of this is that many people take it upon themselves as a resolution for the new year to learn “shnayim mikre v’echad targum” (reading the parsha twice and the Aramaic translation once). From the start it is not an easy task, as Bereishis is a long parsha. Some years Simchas Torah falls out on Thursday, which leaves only a day or two to finish the parsha. If one is more ambitious and does it with Rashi, it is truly a challenging endeavor (especially if one has never done it before). Many people start off doing it, but eventually they go back to there old push off mode, saying to themselves, “I’ll do it later,” before eventually falling out of the race.
One of the members of our community inspired me this week with a practice that he has adopted in order to “save the moment.” He told me how much he was inspired by a certain phrase in the Shemoneh Esrei on Yom Kippur, what it meant to him, and how it motivated him in the rest of his tefillos. Immediately after Yom Kippur, he wrote into his machzor the thought and the date so that the next year he would be inspired again.
As we start this new year with the joy of Sukkos still embedded in our minds, I would like to suggest the following: I am confident that everyone had at least one moment during Sukkos that they felt true joy. It may have been during the prayers, while hearing an inspirational devar Torah, singing songs at the holiday meal, or while shaking the lulav and esrog, etc. If we are able to recall that joy, we can draw inspiration from it to become different people in the future.
May we all merit to find a way to ”capture the moment” of zeman simchasaynu to keep us happy in our service of Hashem. People who focus on their happiness seem to have the exuberance and strength to forge forward, and have the resilience not to repeat the same mistakes as in years gone by.