By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
Before Rosh HaShanah, there is a universal quest to ask Hashem for a better year. Better parnasa/livelihood, better nachas, better gezundt, better shalom bais/marital harmony. Better, better, better. Hashem responds, ‘Of course, it’s a pleasure! After all, you’re my children,’(as the verse states, “Bonim atem l’Hashem Elokeichem, you are children to Hashem, your G-d.”). But, as a proviso, He asks, ‘Just tell me how you’re going to be better. After all,it’s only fair that it should be equitable. If you want better, tell Me in which ways you are going to be better in the coming year.’
Therefore, I recommend to everyone that they should start formulating a “to-do-better” list during the month of Elul to tell Hashem how they are going to be better in the coming year. The more we have on our To-Do-Better list, the better chance we have to ensure that we will have a sweeter year in many areas. So, I’d like to share ten ideas with my dear readers to put on your To-Do-Better list with the hope that we could sincerely embrace them and see great results for the coming year.
- I will assign a little extra time each day to study Torah more than I did last year for, if anything gives Hashem a reason to grant us an extra lease on life, it’s a pledge to learn more Torah. This commitment should include what you’re going to learn such as Kitzur Shulchan Orech, a mussar sefer, some mishnayos, or an easy masechta like Berachos or Megillah.
- I will be kind, especially to my spouse and children for if we are kind to those who depend upon us, Hashem will be kind to us.
- I will regularly give charity and not just when I am asked, for charity saves from death, adds years to one’s life, enriches a person, and promotes personal satisfaction and tranquility.
- I will thoughtfully put on my tefillin and wear them with a clean body for the Tur says that tefillin is the most important positive commandment in the Torah.
- I will expend more effort in the preparing of Shabbos for we are taught that many great rewards come one’s way through meaningful Shabbos preparation. For example, to’ameha chaim zochue, one who tastes the Shabbos food to see whether it needs more salt or pepper will merit more life and one who sharpens the knife before Shabbos will merit better shalom bais. In the process, I will look for ways on erev Shabbos to help my spouse and avoid conflict at all costs during this frenetic time when conflict is so common.
- I will pay attention to the mezuzza for its proper usage grants added years to ourselves and our children. Once a day, I will hold my hand on a mezuzza and reflect that Hashem is in the room that I am entering. Included in this commitment is a resolve to check whether our old mezuzzos are still kosher.
- I will make a great attempt to avoid causing my spouse pain. In that merit, may Hashem spare us from pain in the coming year.
- I will brush up on the art of giving compliments which is oh so important and oh so unnatural. I will first practice this on my spouse, then on my children, then on my parents, and eventually branch outto my friends. The reward for such a discipline will be enormous in this world and in the Next World.
- I will try to learn the talent of looking away when someone slights me. This is an amazing protection for the coming year since, if we look away from other’s sins to us, Hashem will look away from ours.
- In a similar vein, I will try to be slow to anger and even if my spouse continues to do something that aggravates me, I will try to curb my frustration. In that way, even though we continue to anger Hashem, we can hope that He will be erech apa’im, long suffering, to us.
This is just for starters, a sampler. Each of us needs to make a cheshbon hanefesh, a personal accounting, from modeh ani in the morning to birchas hamapil in the night and make for ourselves a real, and sincere To-Do-Better list. In that merit may Hashem bless us all with a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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