I’m Just Not in the Mood

September 2, 2011 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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We have just begun the Jewish month of Elul. In a few weeks from now, we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah and usher in the New Year. In preparation for this auspicious event we are given this period – a month of opportunity.

 

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

During these weeks, we reflect on the past year, identify areas of weakness, make amends, forgive others and resolve to improve our performance in the coming year. This process is called Teshuva – returning.

But what happens if we lack motivation. How do we improve if we lack the basic willingness and desire? How do we spark an enthusiasm to take the first step towards real change?

There are three reasons why we choose to do good things and engage in positive behavior.

a) Understanding – We appreciate the significance of a good deed and have fully internalized its importance. We can explain it to ourselves and to others. This Mitzvah now reflects a value that we are determined to live by.

b) Feeling – We have developed an emotional attachment to good deeds. We love helping people, or get tremendous satisfaction from teaching others. The passion and love might be a consequence of our understanding, or might simply be instinctive. Whatever the case is, our emotion inspires us to act.

c) Perseverance and commitment – This is when we have lost the spark of enthusiasm. We no longer understand why we get excited. Just deep down we still know that it is important, so we keep going and “force” ourselves to fight apathy and to act. We are simply not in the mood but we push ourselves to do something positive.

 

Although it would appear that the latter is far from ideal, the opposite is true. When our behavior is a consequence of intellectual understanding or a strong emotional feeling, it is not completely selfless. It is “I” that understands and “me” that feels. Our ego is still there, albeit in a positive way. However, when we do something despite the absence of feeling or emotion, there is no self-interest – it is being done because it is right. It is driven purely by a commitment to goodness and moral behavior.

So if you have lost interest then you have just been given an amazing opportunity – to do good just because it is good. This is the month of opportunity. Take the first step and take one more positive step.

Have a good Shabbos

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