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A Small Step For Man - A Large Step For Menshlichkeit

Recently we posted about mussar - the art of self perfection. We all strive for perfection but it sees like such a monumental task. Where do we begin?

Big answer: Small acts. A smile, a phone call showing you care, one bracha said from the depths of your heart etc. etc. Any tiny act that breaks in the slightest our more animalistic or self-centered nature is a step on the road to greatness. To overcome an urge is considered a true act of heroism. [See Pirkei Avos 4\1]

Medicine contains just milligrams of healing substance, but it does the job. Large dosages are in fact dangerous. The same applies to our personal growth. We cannot begin with plans to, for example, feed every hungry person in the world. We must begin by planning to feed a poor family for one week. Or even buying lunch for a poor person. We cannot begin by having kavvana for the whole davening. We should start with one bracha of shmoneh esrei and work our way up from there. You know that television contaminates the soul but you can't bring yourself to get rid of it. So every so often before you turn it on ask to yourself "Is this going to bring me closer to G-d?" The answer is obvious. Then take a Chumash and learn for five minutes. You have just done a small act of greatness. [See Alei Shor Vol. 2 Page 189]

My personal approach is a little nuanced. I believe it depends on the situation and sometimes large goals are neccessary to have in the back of one's mind. In general, however, in my view, short term goals should be realistic goals and ones that you can feel a sense of accomplishment that you actually achieved them. It is better to set a small goal and achieve it then to set a large, sweeping goal, and fail at it.

I agree!

Well said!

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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