You Need To Cut It
Preparation is knowing your limits
No matter where you are on the journey, you’re always growing.
Rav Sholom Schwadron was one of the great Rabbis of the 20th century. He was known as the Maggid of Jerusalem for the fiery, ethical talks he would often give. He tells a story that when he was younger, his teacher Rabbi Leib Chasman called to him during the month of Elul to think deeply about taking a practice on in anticipation of the Jewish new year. Beautiful idea, right?
He warned him though.
Make sure it’s something small and manageable so that you’re sure you can accomplish it!
Rav Shwadron thought long and hard about what he would take on. The next day, he came back to his Rabbi and proudly exclaimed:
I’ve got the exact thing and I know I can do it!
His Rabbi responded to him, whatever task you’re thinking of doing, cut it in half and work on just one aspect of it.
I find this story moving and resonant at this point in the year; it has application year round too. It’s a poignant illustration that we all often take on too much.
Much like the secular new year, Jews often see Rosh Hashanah as a time to explore new areas in which we want to grow. In and of itself, this is a wonderful idea. It asks us to look inward, see where we might have made missteps in the year that passed, and learn from them. The challenge is that we bite off more than we can chew.
The wisdom of Rav Chasman is universal. Take whatever task or project for which you have great intentions. Cut in half. Then, focus on one of those halves. It allows us to be intentional about where we want to go while also admitting to the condition that we all have: being human.
Take this next 10 day period before Rosh Hashanah begins and see what you can come up with. More important than finding something groundbreaking is being a good self-editor. Know what you can do. Take it down a notch. Then, go after it.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Weekend!