Rabbi Moshe Levertov

Rabbi Moshe Levertov

Have you ever tried to make big changes in your life? You might have met someone special whose story inspired you to live life differently. A major event could have affected you or you might have been changed by something you experienced or learned.

These don’t happen often.

Have you noticed that most people aren’t inspired to do so on a whim?

Inspiration often hits quickly and leaves and disappears even quicker.

A couple of weeks ago, I bent down to pick something up and felt excruciating pain in my lower back. My family and I had just returned from our summer travels and we were just settling back into our home. Wanting to get back to the normal flow of life, I ignored the pain and pushed through it.

Motrin and a back brace weren’t cutting it, though. After a couple days and still in pain, I knew that something different needed to be done. After a few visits to Dr. G, our family friend and chiropractor, I was good as new.

This was the second time in about a year that I had pinched a nerve in my lower back. It was a wake-up call to me; I knew that I need to be proactive with regards to my spine and back health to avoid problems in the future.

But a few days later, feeling fine, my habits hadn’t changed. I know I should, but I still haven’t started doing the proper back exercises that my back can use.

I know what I should be doing but it’s not easy to change!

There’s a time each year that, for us Jews, inspires change. The High Holidays are a time to (re)connect with G-d. We go to shul, pray and listen to motivating sermons.

We truly desire to be better, do better and live better but it’s not easy to catch “the lightning in a bottle” and make changes to our daily lives and established routines.

Fortunately, we have the month of Elul.

Elul is like the pre-season. Before a season of competition, athletes need to work their way into “game shape.” Without putting in the preparation, they won’t be able to play the game properly.

G-d practices, too.

Each year, He sits on His throne in royal robes and shines His countenance upon the world on Rosh Hashanah, looking at each and every one of us while he decides what blessings to give us in the year ahead.

And for the month before that he “practices.” During the month of Elul, he puts on his “royal clothes,” too. Kabbalah teaches that He shines his mercy and love upon us, encouraging us and offering the chance to connect with him.

It’s a great time for us to practice, too!

No, I’m not asking you to spend hours upon hours in synagogue each day for a full month. I don’t want to deliver a sermon for 30 days straight either!

But Elul is the perfect time to reflect on our lives. We don’t need to cram the inspiration and actual change in the few moments that we spend in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We have the whole month to become comfortable with it and accept it gradually. We have a whole month to take upon ourselves small changes that will greatly uplift our lives.

So let’s ask ourselves: Where do I stand in my relationships with family, friends and fellow human beings? What can I do to become a better person and mensch? Can I see myself improving my connection with G-d? Is there an area in my life that can use more blessings? Where can I use a little bit more holiness, G-dliness in my life?

Let’s not wait for something drastic to happen that forces radical change on us. In just a few short days, the most opportune season will present itself. Let’s get a head start!

Imagine what a difference that’ll make! JN

Rabbi Moshe Levertov directs the Jewish Care Network in Phoenix.