Rosh Hashanah is on its way. We are always looking for ways to better ourselves during Elul, trying to find ideas of how to merit a proper and positive judgement for a sweet new year.
I can’t come here and tell you what to do. You have to figure that out for yourself. I know the Skverer Rebbe, shlit”a has always told me that every person knows for themselves what they have to work on. So, I’m not here to give concrete examples of what you as the reader should do. But what I can do, is offer insight into how you should go about your preparation for these high and holy days of the Yomim Noraim.
Imagine the following scenario. Chaim has lived out his 120 years on This World and ascends to the Next World. Coming before the Heavenly Tribunal, he is asked the questions that are asked of a soul returning to its source after such a long absence. And then, they ask him as follows: “Tell us, Chaim. What were you thinking when you learned Torah and did mitzvos on a daily basis?” Chaim pauses, and sputters out his answer: “Ummm….I dunno….eh……um……nothing!” “WHAT???” thunders the Heavenly Tribunal. “What does that mean ‘nothing’? Why did you do the mitzvos and maasim tovim that you did?” “I don’t know! Just because!” “JUST BECAUSE???!!! Chaim! What were you thinking when you did those mitzvos?! WHY did you do them?!” Chaim sputters again for another answer. “I mean…well…you know….my tzitzis and peyos I got when I was three, davening and learning I picked up in Cheder, my tefillin my father bought me…” And on, and on, and on he rambles about how he did things simply for no reason other reason than the fact that someone else started him off and he never really stopped to even think or appreciate why he was doing them.
Needless to say, Chaim is in a lot of hot water, should this honestly be the case. Not because he is doing anything wrong per say. Rather, he is simply lacking a very important factor: individuality. Yes, being individual. Not to say that he shouldn’t follow the customs and nuances of the community he belongs to. Rather, he hasn’t brought his true self into the picture, leaving his G-d given strengths and passions out of his Torah learning and mitzvah observance. Therefore, he finds himself standing before Hashem and His Beis Din as a plain and empty person, with zero personal connection to any of his Yiddishkeit.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe, ztz”l, brings this mashul in his sefer “Alei Shur” (Chelek 2, Shaar 4, Perek “Chodesh Horachamim”), stating that it is clear from the words of Chazal, that a person stand in front of Hashem in Din completely alone, bearing full responsibility for his actions. This is evident from the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah which discusses how mankind passes in front of Hashem in judgement, each alluding to only one entity being able to pass at a time. And if one is standing alone as an individual, he has to stand out uniquely as an individual. He can’t just be a carbon copy of someone else, rather an embodiment of pure and rich essence.
Basically, if you want to be able to stand in judgement, the golden rule is that you have to be yourself. And being yourself means coming with those internal and emotional strengths that Hashem gave you to serve Him and come close to him. Use those kochos to do teshuvah and bring out the best in yourself. So then, when you’ll be standing in judgement on the great day, you’ll be distinguished, and it will shine through in front of the King of All Kings.
There are two ways to accomplish this, says R’ Wolbe.
1) Learning Torah. Learning over and over until in becomes digested and absorbed into your very being. This alone is helpful in bringing out one’s true self.
2) Alone Time. Spending some time with only yourself, away from friends and other distractions, allows you to get to know yourself a little better, and realize the strengths that you have and how to use them. This will be extremely helpful in helping you bring our you individuality as a person, as opposed to having your friends label your personality traits for you. You will be more self-defined as your true self.
Remember. You are not a plain person. You are a unique person. So unique that there is no person in the world like you. And it’s with those unique kochos that will distinguish you on the Day of Judgement to hopefully seal you in the Book of the Righteous for a happy, successful sweet new year with a treasure trove of brachos waiting for you to enjoy.
Wishing everyone a ksiva v’chasima tova!