Here is the thing about commitments, they are made to be broken (and repaired). I had pledged to myself to write an article/blog once a week for 52 weeks and that was going well until it wasn’t.
Nothing in particular, other than life got in the way. Usual work/family drama (yes, even rabbi’s have that) and then a lackadaisical energy that doesn’t promote the creative juices.
After missing my deadline for a couple weeks, I knew that I need to do something different if I had any hope for a different result. So, I packed up my trusty little iPad and keyboard and went to one of my favorite North Shore spots. The Lynch Park in Beverly, where you have water on three sides. (See picture) There is something calming and soothing about the water that gives a general reset.
So what is it about commitments to do good that don’t seem to have the staying power? Why is it that I don’t need motivation and encouragement to eat cheesecake an ice cream regularly, yet for things of worth it is so challenging?
I suggest the answer might be found in the command to say the Shema prayer (3 times) daily. Why is there such a law? If we read it yesterday, presumably our awareness of that information has not disappeared or dissipated so quickly that it needs such a refresh.
Perhaps a once weekly reminder would suffice? Yet that is not enough? We are obligated to say it day in and day out? The answer is, that Hergel Naseh Tevah, getting used to something makes it second nature.
This cuts in both directions. At times it works in our favor, that by doing something religiously (pun intended) you just get used to it and do it regularly. Think gym, and other similar good things that while difficult can become part of your daily routine. On the flip side, we can adopt bad habits, like that cheesecake and ice cream habit I referenced a moment ago.
However, then there is something in-between. Where your rote in doing something makes you start to take it for granted. For example, prayer, and specifically the Shema prayer. This prayer, which focuses on the essence of our faith, and acknowledging that Gd is the All Powerful One, can also become robotic and without meaning to the person saying it.
That is the great danger with all commitments. What begins as passion, dies or goes into a comatose state, and not for lack of usage. Just lack of reinvestment in the original intent.
When that happens, you need to a) identify it b) commit to doing something different to get a different result.
If it is prayer, you need to revisit what you started to pray, what that prayer means to you, and how to reignite the original passion again. Look inward and realize how many blessings you have, and to express gratitude and thanks, and conversely, how many blessings you still need and focus on Who can provide them.
If it is a blog, you need to reconnect with the origins of why you started to write and how to keep that passion going or, in some case light it up again from scratch. In my case, to open the creative juices I know are flowing in my head.
And if it is a diet/bad habit, like the cheesecake and ice cream we’ve been discussing, to revisit why you agreed or endeavored to stop that behavior in the first place.
So, goodbye dear ocean – you can be sure I will be back to see you again and again – and know that I will learn from you.
Your waves lap against the shore, and that happens again and again and again, regardless of weather conditions or internal and external factors. Regardless of life’s dramas, stresses and ever changing realities, you continue to splash on the sandy shore with the same original passion as the last gazillion times. I pledge to emulate your ways in all my ways (the blog being the least of them) and recommit myself to the things that got me started in the first place.
Blog 31/52 Picture my iPhone