Life is not a game of chess

August 21, 2015 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
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We are currently in the Jewish month of Elul. In just over three 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…writes Rabbi Michoel Gourarie.

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

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

We are taught that in this month of Elul, G-d is like a “King in the field” – accessible, approachable and willing to accept us with warmth and love. During these few weeks He makes the process of change and growth a lot easier than it normally is.

One of the greatest obstacles that stand in the way of self-improvement is the erroneous belief that it is impossible to change. We believe that some personality traits are too ingrained to be modified, some conflicts are too deep to be resolved or we are too old to learn new things and alter the direction of our behavior. The message of Teshuva is that this is a fundamental error. There is never a point of no return. No matter how low we think we may have fallen there is always a way back. Change is always achievable provided we believe it to be possible and necessary.

There were great Chassidic Rabbis who would play chess from time to time to sharpen their minds. However there was one Rebbe – Reb Yechiel of Gostinin who refused to learn how to play the game. “I heard”, he said “that in chess, once you let go, you cannot retract a wrong move. I find this unacceptable as I know that Teshuva teaches us that there is nothing that cannot be corrected.” No matter how much we think we might have failed in the past year, we can always fix, improve, resolve, forgive, move on and continue to develop and grow.

Believing in ourselves and in our ability to change is the first step to make it happen

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