Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 25 Elul 5776

Elul Tools  

Building a Strong Foundation 
for the Days of Awe

Shofar Blast 
(press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

What you water grows.
How much water do you have?
Focus. Pour wisely.

25 Elul - Focus on Your Bulls Eye!

Okay! Rosh Hashanah is ever so close. We are wishing our friends and family a “Good and Sweet Year!” We have done lots of soul searching and lots of inner and outer repair. We’ve pondered how to improve our lives in the year to come. Now is the time for clarity and resolve. What specific intention can we set to ensure that 5777 is indeed a good and sweet year?

It is common at times like this to be very ambitious in our quest for self-improvement. We are inspired by the renewal this time of year offers and want to make sweeping, positive changes. Many of us declare we will make remarkable progress in every area of our lives. Our appetite for growth, change, transformation is ravenous. We pledge to stick to a long list of life enhancing activities all year long. We tell ourselves something along these lines,  “I will...

Lose "X" pounds 
Join a book group
Volunteer in my child's classroom
Eliminate junk food from my diet
Attend synagogue services weekly
Plant an organic garden
Meditate daily
Invite neighbors for meals regularly
Spend quality time with my spouse
Exercise daily
Take up yoga
Bake more with my  children
Cook all meals from scratch
Ride bikes or walk instead of drive
Stay in touch with distant friends and family regularly
Never lose my temper
Cease gossiping

     Blah, Blah Blah..."

In that quantity, none of these lofty aspirations are reachable. Real, meaningful change comes when we are both sincere AND we focus intently. Fractured attention to multiple things will result in frustration and early failure. We have our whole lives to attack a list like this.  Of course this is not to say that we shouldn’t dabble in many areas. Obviously we have multifaceted lives and all of it requires our time and attention. However, to really make a lasting, significant, and positive change in our lives, we must zero in on one “burning issue.” What is the one thing that will truly transform our lives? What can we will give our heart and soul this year? See your future self one year from now. What is the one thing you want to make sure you stuck to and made a change for the better?

The experts say the most common mistakes people make when setting goals are the following:



Let’s not fall prey to our own good intentions for positive change. We would benefit more by setting a single meaningful, though realistic and achievable, goal - one we can look back on next year at this time and feel that we truly made a positive difference. Remember the word for “sin” in Hebrew is Chet and has to do with losing focus, missing the mark. God is most unhappy with us when we stray from who we really are, what we’re meant to do. So, let’s keep our vision clear. Stay on target. The key is to hit a bulls eye in 5777 with one clear intention. Think back to all the different areas we covered during the process of chesbon hanefesh (earnest soul searching). We delved deeply into all the different facets of our inner and outer lives. Is there one area that really needs your attention this year (mind, body, soul, intimate relationships, community?) If you really gave time and focus to this one area, how might the quality of your life improve?

Today’s Elul Tool:  Articulate your number one intention for 5777. Don’t get distracted by having more than one goal. You can always involve yourself in other pursuits, but focus on one thing. Make sure you strike a balance between stretching yourself while also being realistic. Don’t be vague or general.  Make your goal very specific. Some time today WRITE YOUR GOAL DOWN.



Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
Here is an online version of Psalm 27 for easy access. 

For Families and Kids!

Junior Tool Box:

Talk about individual and family goals for the new year.  Distinguish between hopes, dreams, and concrete goals.

Since children don’t have as many demands on their time as adults, they can easily manage a bigger goals list.  Brainstorm ideas and then help your children crystallize a few realistic goals.  One idea is to have a “Self Goal,” an “Others Goal,” and an “Environment Goal.”  For example:

The goal for myself is to learn to tie my shoes.

The goal for others is to remember to say thank you to them.

The goal for my environment is to not run the water when I brush my teeth.

Help your children strike a balance between goals that are too easy and goals that are to difficult. Help them come up with very specific language. Also remind your children that when we take on too many goals or activities we can become frustrated and stressed. Post your goals somewhere prominent in your home so that you can be reminded and stay on track!

Talk about how Rosh Hashanah, the new year, is a special time to create new things for the year ahead. Perhaps your child can take on new chores. Maybe your family wants to come up with a new ritual or activity. Is it time to re-arrange your room or clean out the closet? Concretize the idea of the New Year with new things in your family!

Tie in the idea of newness and renewal with the round challah we eat during the High Holidays. We make them round to symbolize the continual cycle of life, the cyclical nature of time. Rosh Hashanah comes back around again, every year at this time, during the Fall, the start of school etc.! Every time around, we get to renew ourselves and clean the slate for a new year.

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