We are currently halfway through the month of Elul, the explosive month before the Jewish New Year. It is not explosive in the sense that there are parties every week, but rather because “the King is in the field.” G-d, it is said, is extremely close to us now. In a metaphor, you can imagine that instead of your prayers “going up” to heaven, they go “sideways” – because G-d is standing next to you. They say you can achieve spiritual growth in this one month that would normally take you years to. And I heard this wonderful parable from Reb. Esther Baila Schwartz:
Once every year, a king of a certain town went out dressed like a commoner. He went into a local inn and sat around and drank and ate with the locals. At one point in the conversation, he asked them: “If the king were sitting with you right now and you could talk to him and ask him for anything you liked, what would you ask for?”
The first person said he would love a big farm.
The second, a big house.
The third, a huge bank account full of money.
The fourth person scoffed and said, “What a dumb question, the king doesn’t care about us. He would never do anything like that, end of story!”
And so at the end of the day, the king returned to his palace.
The next morning, the first person woke up and was escorted to his new big farm. The second was given the keys to his new big house. The third was given the PIN to his new bank account full of money. And the fourth person, realizing his loss, could only sadly say, “Oh…”
This is how Elul is, except we know that it’s the king and that we can ask for what we want.
After hearing this story, I determinedly decided not to be that fourth person. So I sat myself down and thought… what do I want to ask for for myself, this Elul 5776? What do I finally want to break out of?
It didn’t take me long, because I already knew the answer: I was stuck, as I heard someone call it, in my “misery comfort zones.” My misery comfort zone is an area of my life that I know I could do better in – but just don’t actually want to, because I’m comfortable there. I’m comfortably miserable. And that was my problem: I wasn’t pushing myself to improve, because I didn’t want out of several of my misery comfort zones. And so all the times I “tried” to get out, they simply didn’t work because my heart wasn’t in it.
All of us are stuck in this or that area in our lives, probably mostly in our “misery comfort zones.” On some level, we all enjoy complaining about how we’re bad at this and that, and how our lives are terrible in this aspect. And it’s a shame, because by purposely unpurposely stunting our growth in certain areas, we are holding back from contributing our maximum potential to the world. If you were aspiring to become some kind of celebrity, then perhaps yes it would sort of make sense for one to think that there were limited opportunities in the world. But since most of us are “regular people,” the truth is, there are unlimited ways to make a difference, especially with the acts of kindness that we can perform in our own communities. We were all purposely uniquely made, so that we could all solve certain problems that only we could. The trick is understanding your unique combination of skills, and with that, being able to pinpoint the kinds of jobs you would best be suited for in this world.
So that’s what I am asking for this Elul: wanting to want to get out of my misery comfort zones. Because once I can get that desire in place, the rest will follow, and change can finally truly begin – and I will eventually be able to give all that I can give to this world. Perhaps you would like to take this opportunity to want to want something as well. 🙂
With that, wishing everyone a beautiful last two weeks of Elul – two weeks we shouldn’t waste, because Rosh Hashana is coming!
This entry is dedicated to the memory of Helen B. Haber – Chaya Bracha bat Chaim Yaakov AH as an aliyah for her neshama, and for the refuah sheleima of Devorah Dorit bat Golda. If you would want me to dedicate my next entry to someone you know in their memory or for their refuah, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.