Do I Really Have to Wake Up?

Do I really have to wake up?

I like to sleep, but I always got up for school without too much prodding (until college). However, like I wrote, I like to sleep. So, I get it when the Rambam writes that hearing the shofar relays the message:

“Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator. Those who forget the truth in the vanities of time and throughout the entire year, devote their energies to vanity and emptiness which will not benefit or save: Look to your souls. Improve your ways and your deeds and let every one of you abandon his evil path and thoughts.” (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4- translation from

There are times that I am just not too motivated. Elul is one of those times, despite “going through the motions” (I actually wrote about this last year), I don’t always “feel it”. The difference between my Elul last year and this year is that I can look back now and see several times during the year that I was fairly motivated with bettering myself. I have found, since Rosh Chodesh Elul that I’m not interested in writing much (even this submission was difficult), I’m dragging through the work day, I’m not taking my 3 times a week doctor-recommended 30 minute walks, I’ve gained a quarter of a pound (I’ve been on Weight Watchers since June), etc. I could come up with a number of logical reasons why I have been acting this way, but the proverbial snooze button that is my lack of motivation during Elul is probably my yetzer hora. Ok, I said it. I feel a little better. By blaming my yetzer, I feel less responsible (just joking). In actuality, admitting that there is a force that designed to pull us away from kedusha only emphasizes our greater mission as Jews.

Of course, like most important things in life, there’s no magic spell to fix my problem of motivation. I might be the only one who feels like this, but I doubt it. Most of us probably just don’t want to admit that we’re not motivated all the time. It’s sort like having to complain about the heat of the summer when you’re wearing your black hat, it’s just not socially appropriate. For whatever sociological reason, it’s not fashionable to admit life isn’t peachy and blissful. It’s full of challenges and opportunities to reach our potential. There are times that it’s difficult to do even the easy things (like walking for half an hour), let alone issues involving working on Avodas Hashem and Tikun HaMiddos. It’s so easy to say, “I don’t want to do this now”. My kids say it all the time to me. Not wanting to do homework or eating your vegetables only makes things more difficult later on down the line. Usually, with me, it boils down to having narrow vision.

Losing sight of the big picture, no matter if it’s becoming a healthier person, approaching Rosh Hashana with the understanding that I am a child of the King of Kings, or getting out of bed so I am not late is an often employed tactic of our yetzer hora. Seeing a bigger picture, or even a slightly not so smaller picture, of anything in life only happens if you wake up.

7 comments on “Do I Really Have to Wake Up?

  1. To Ben David #4: I once met someone whose long-term goal was to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. That person already had accomplished quite a bit toward his goal, as he had been admitted to the M.D. / Ph.D. program of a top notch university. According to his calculation, he would be 40 before reaching his goal. My response to this was: “One day, you’re going to be 40 anyway. What is wrong with setting a long-term goal for that date?”

    Another narrative: There was a woman who weighed 360 pounds. She started on an eating plan on which she would lose 10 pounds every month. Now those first few months must have been very frustrating. After four months on this eating plan, she still weighed 320 pounds. Many people would have given up for lack of quick results. But this woman was diligent and stuck to her eating plan. After two years, twenty four months, she had lost 240 pounds and now weighed 120 pounds. She had reached her goal.

    Long-term goals can be life-changing and very meaningful when reached. Let Rosh Hashanah be a time for chizuk and reinforcement for you, rather than an obstacle.

  2. Multiyear projects are everywhere. What could be better than one devoted to s spiritual goal? We can tally up our successes and failures, but I wouldn’t include not fixing everything all at once as a failure.

  3. To Ben David #4: No reason why you should not have a long term growth / healing goal that takes more than one year. However, possibly you can gain chizuk from passing benchmarks or milestones along the way. Or you can use the Rosh Hashanah davening of this year to steady your focus on the year after, or even the year after that, saying: “By October 20xx, I will have achieved with Gds help this particular worthwhile life goal, after Divine assistance in getting past many obstacles in the way.”

  4. What about those times when a growth/healing goal takes more than one year?

    I am in such a situation, and find myself simply switching off the breast-beating aspects of the liturgy for this time of year.

  5. While much of our reflection now is personal, reflecting on the very threatened position of Jews around the world can add useful focus. We’re a team, and the team seems to be backed up against its goal line.

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