There are so many mitzvos, we can’t possibly work on everything at once. The idea is to pick one small area to improve in
Have you ever heard about the idea of taking on a kabbalah? As Tishrei comes around, we want to think about ways we can grow and be better than we were before. There are so many mitzvos, we can’t possibly work on everything at once. The idea is to pick one small area to improve in. When you’ve mastered that, you can move on to the next small thing. It’s like adding one brick at a time to a building.
Words of Wisdom
Rav Shlomo Hoffman ztz’l was a talmid of Rav Issac Sher ztz”l. When he was a 23-year-old bochur, Rav Sher approached him before Rosh Hashanah and asked him if he’d made any kabbalos.
When Rav Hoffman showed his list of kabbalos to Rav Sher, Rav Sher asked if he’d practiced any of his kabbalos to make sure he could really keep them. When Rav Hoffman said he hadn’t practiced, Rav Sher tore up the list.
Rav Sher taught Rav Hoffman that he should only have kabbalos he’s already tried, so that he’s totally sure he can keep them.
Rav Hoffman said he learned an important lesson. We should make sure our kabbalos match our abilities. Maybe we think it’s better to take on something big, but then if we aren’t able to keep it, we’ll feel bad about ourselves instead of growing.
We should pick something very small, so that it’s easy for us to do it, and then take on more in little steps. All those little steps will add up to something big!
Rav Wolbe gives a mashal in his sefer Alei Shur. He was once flying in an airplane over Egypt and the plane started flying very close to the ground. Rav Wolbe was worried there was something wrong with the airplane, but the pilot told him they were flying low so the Egyptian radar wouldn’t see them, because the radar would be looking for planes higher in the sky.
Rav Wolbe thought that was a great way to think of our yetzer hara. If we pick something big to change, our yetzer hara will fight with us and try to get us to give up. But if we pick something very small, our yetzer hara will think it’s too small to bother with and leave us alone. If we keep adding very, very small steps we can sneak past the yetzer hara and grow very big, slowly over time.
Kids like you can keep kabbalos, too!
On Tishah B’Av when I was 14, my whole camp decided to take on a kabbalah to be careful not to talk during davening that summer. I really liked it. It made me more aware that Hashem is listening. So later that year I decided I wanted to take on the same kabbalah for myself Between Rosh Hashanah and Sukkos.
When you have taken on one kabbalah successfully, it helps you take on more things. After not talking in shul, I decided that I wanted to say Shemoneh Esreh with more kavanah.
I have dyslexia — which makes it hard for me to learn, but after taking on those kabbalos, I managed to finish Maseches Tamid seven times. I really felt like Hashem helped me in the zechus of my kabbalos.
Tip: If you ever feel like you’re struggling and no one is listening — Hashem is always listening!
Far Rockaway, NY
Last Elul our fifth-grade teacher passed out papers and told us to write something that we wanted to work on until Yom Kippur. Then she collected the papers and gave them back to us after Yom Kippur so we could see how we did.
I wrote that I wanted to be nicer to my brother. It was really hard for me. He would do something that I found annoying and I wanted to be annoying back. But every time I remembered the note I’d given my teacher, I held myself back. I didn’t want to get back the paper after Yom Kippur and see that I hadn’t accomplished what I wanted to!
Tip: I would tell other kids not to be afraid to try to things that are hard for you, because it really feels good when you succeed!
Far Rockaway, NY
DO you remember Super Avi that ran in Junior six years ago? It was a true story about Avi’s experiences with cancer. In one chapter, Avi talked about how every year at one of the meals of Rosh Hashanah, his family goes around the table and everyone takes on a kabbalah for the coming year.
The Steins in Yerushalayim read about Super Avi and his family’s Rosh Hashanah kabbalos and thought it was so nice, they decided they wanted to try it also.
“We try to pick something that has to do with Shabbos, because Shabbos is the center of our lives, and also, it’s very practical since the whole family is together” explains Mrs. Stein.
The kabbalos they’ve taken on as a family:
- Everyone gets a job to help get ready for Shabbos
- During Seudah Shlishis, they go around the table and everyone thanks Hashem for one thing that happened that week.
- They learn one halachah at one of the Shabbos seudos
- Everyone says the first paragraph of benching out loud together at Seudah Shlishis.
- Everyone puts a sticker on a chart for each time they stay calm when they could have gotten angry.
- They eat Melaveh Malkah together
“Not every kabbalah was successful; our sticker chart didn’t last very long,” Mrs. Stein shares, “but we learned something from that. It’s easier to stick with a kabbalah that has a specific time you need to do it — like going around the table to thank Hashem at Seudah Shlishis — than a sticker chart that everyone has to remember to come and tell me that they stayed calm.”
The Stein kids share their take:
Why did you choose a specific kabbalah?
My father recommended we each take an Erev Shabbos job because the Rambam says preparing for Shabbos is part of the mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos.
Two years ago, we started having a family Melaveh Malkah every week after reading how important it is in article by Rabbi Nissel in Family First. We make sure to wash and my father tells a story.
What are some of the challenges of keeping your kabbalah?
Every week my yetzer hara tries to get me not to clean for Shabbos. And by Melaveh Malkah you’re already full.
Any advice for other kids who want to take on these kabbalos?
Zevi (14): Yes! You should clean right away, because the longer you procrastinate the longer it will take! And, when you eat Seudah Shlishis, leave some room so you’re still hungry for Melaveh Malkah!
Have you learned anything from your family’s kabbalos?
Shua (12): It’s so important to always thank Hashem for everything. Also, when my oldest brother was learning hilchos shemittah in yeshivah, he knew most of it already, since he’d learned it at the Shabbos table.
Shua’s advice for other kids? Pick something specific so it will be easier for you to remember.
Ten-year-old Tzippy’s favorite kabbalah is going around the table and thanking Hashem every week. “We wanted to notice the tovos Hashem does for us every week and this kabbalah really helped us see how good Hashem is to us!”
She’s also learned from all the stories she’s heard from her father that there are a lot of yeshuos that can come from eating Melaveh Malkah. They buy something special on Friday to serve at Melaveh Malkah so they’ll want to eat again.
Tzippy’s advice to other kids? Start with the easier things.
Baruch Stein is only seven, but he also likes to take part in his families kabbalos, and his favorite is thanking Hashem. Baruch learned we have to thank Hashem for making the world.
Let’s us know if you take upon yourself a kabbalah and how you kept to it.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 929)
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