If not now, when? Hillel, Foundational Ethics, 1:14
One should set aside a definitive time of the day and a specific amount of time for this assessment [of your ways] so that it is not a fortuitous matter, but one that is conducted with the greatest regularity; for it yields great returns. [Mesilat Yesharim, Path of the Just, ch. 3]
~ Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto, known as the RaMChaL [1707 – 1746], author of Mesilat Yesharim, a foundational Mussar text.
In the Introduction to Rabbi Luzzatto’s seminal work, he says that he is not going to tell you anything that you don’t know already. Imagine. The author of one of the most famous Mussar texts of all time saying that basically, there’s nothing new that I’m going to tell you.
He doesn’t insult us with what we know in our insides already. What gets in the way of a deeper ‘knowing’ is our intellectual ego. We get in the way of ourselves. Sometimes, we know there is a lack in our lives, but we avoid doing anything about it. Science calls it inertia. We can call it many things: scrolling, watching, shopping…..anything that we do mindlessly that takes us away from what might really change things us for us.
Peeling away those layers that have obscured our inner purity and desire for connection with the greater Whole takes work. And sometimes, I get it, we’re just not up for it.
But now is the time, as Hillel said. “If not now, when?” Although for us, the secular New Year doesn’t even play a close second to the work we’re asked to do in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, while everyone else is busy making resolutions, you might just decide that now is the time to engage in Jewish study, the type that will elevate you just a little bit, and get you closer to peeling away another layer.
I have been lazy a bit myself, not developing the courses I’d like to because it is frankly, a lot of work. But I will push myself in the New Year, and I hope you will push yourselves towards your goals as well. Now is the time. Happy New Year!
This post was originally published in Inner Focus, a spiritual newsletter of Inner Judaism. If you want to sign up, click here.