Resolutions Large and Small

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, December 25, 2019

At the start of a new secular year people often think about resolutions for the year ahead. As Jews we are already well on our way to working on making changes in the new year since we wished each other a Shanah Tovah at the start of 5780 a few months ago.

The most popular new year’s resolutions made December 31st include:

1. Diet or eat healthier (71 percent)
2. Exercise more (65 percent)
3. Lose weight (54 percent)
4. Save more and spend less (32 percent)
5. Learn a new skill or hobby (26 percent)
6. Quit smoking (21 percent)
7. Read more (17 percent)
8. Find another job (16 percent)
9. Drink less alcohol (15 percent)
10. Spend more time with family and friends (13 percent)

In contrast, most of the resolutions we make in the month of Elul, at Rosh Hashanah, aren’t about being thinner, healthier, wealthier and happier. Instead, most of us tend to focus on the spiritual aspects of Cheshbon HaNefesh – an accounting of the soul: how we will engage with our family, friends, and community, how we will contribute to making the world a better place, how we will reconnect with our Jewish values of learning, community, and our spiritual lives.

Our desire to make changes in our lives is not enough. We have to translate this desire into action and be willing to commit to take action. It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word for consistency is “akeiviyut” and the word for habit is “regilut.” These words share the same root as “ekev” (heel) and “regel” (foot). Just as in the physical world we need to use our foot and heel in order to move from one point to the next, we have to do the same in our spiritual lives. In order to make changes, we can’t just think about it, we have to actually pick up our feet foot and move forward. And, we have to be consistent and develop good habits in order to really move and change.

No matter what type of resolutions that we make, setting out small goals and creating a plan to achieve them with little lifestyle changes are the best way to succeed. The small changes we make on a daily basis can transform our attitudes and our perspectives. And if making a change seems overwhelming, begin with small steps.

The Hebrew word for change, teshuvah, is often translated as repentance, but it really means to turn. This word emphasizes that small changes can be powerful. Making a small change, a course correction, will lead us in the long run to much bigger changes. Over time, changing our path by only a few degrees on our trajectory will lead us to a very different destination. A slight turn repeated over time will lead us to a new place.

As the secular new year begins, we don’t have to envision a complete transformation that happens quickly. Instead, we can work to make small changes that eventually will lead us to new
places and over time we will see that we have, indeed, changed our direction.


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: President's Message

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