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Creating a To-Do-Better List

As we make our final herculean effort for a seal of good life for the coming year, here are a few suggestions.  They are based upon three principles.  The first principle is, If we want Hashem to give us a better year, He is very agreeable to do so if we show Him how we will be better in the coming year.  So, inserted in our Machzor for Yom Kippur should be a well thought out To-Do-Better List.  The second principle is based upon what Rav Shlomo Lorincz, Z”l, the great biographer of the Gedolei Yisroel, was told by Rav Shach, Zt”l, Zy”a.  When Rav Lorincz had a heart attack, Rav Shach came to visit him.  Rav Lorincz told him that wanted to take upon himself a new kabolah, a new commitment to Hashem for being saved from the heart attack.  What, he asked, should he accept upon himself.  Rav Shach gave him the following guideline.  Make it something small – big commitments often fall by the wayside.  Therefore, our To-Do-Better List should be made up of small calibrations in our lifestyle, little baby-steps in our spirituality.  The third principle is to keep in mind the goal, and that is V’shavta ad Hashem Elokecha – And you should return to Hashem your G-d.  The focus of tshuvah is not just to stop sinning but to come closer in our daily activities to Hashem.

With these three rules in mind, here are a few suggestions to include in our personal To-Do-Better List.

Buy two extra yarmalkas.  Keep one in your tallis bag so that when you put on your tallis and tefilin you will have a fresh and sweat-free yarmalka in honor of you tefilah and the tallis and tefilin.  Then put the other one away so that you will use it specifically for Shabbos and Yom Tov.  This to-do item costs about five dollars per nice yarmalka and the effort is relatively minimal but the gains are great for our yarmalka, which is a corruption of the words yorei malka, fear of the King (in Aramaic), helps us to focus more on Hashem.  When we switch the yarmalka more often, besides getting an extra act of honoring the Sabbath and our prayers, we will be more focused on the message of the yarmalka, that Hashem is above us and, as we said, this is the main thrust of tshuvah.

Here’s another.  Make a commitment that once a day when passing a mezuzah you won’t just kiss it, or breeze right by it, but instead you will put your hand of the mezuzah letting it linger there for a few seconds while thinking that Hashem is with you as you enter or leave the room.  This is a drill that will help you be more focused on the many mezuzahs of the day and give you a little private time of yiras Shamayim.

In our frenetic world of texting and whatnot, when we’ve  become masters of multi-tasking, and more than often we are behind the 8-ball when it comes to free time, we need to be vigilant that we are living up to the responsibilities of kibud av v’eim.  Remember Hashem informs us that there are three partners in a human being, Hashem, the father, and the mother.  Hashem tells us that the way we pay attention to our parents is a litmus test to our relationship with Him.  All too often, we are very negligent in this vital responsibility.  Here’s a suggestion.  Buy a package of postcards.  Stamp and address them in advance.  Then, twice a week, send your parents a postcard even if you live two blocks away.  Just jot down the latest things going on in your life.  You will find that this doesn’t take long but will give great joy to your parents and great nachas to Hashem. (Of course this should supplement not replace your visits and calls) 

When it comes to your spouse, remember, if we make ourselves needed in our marital relationship, then Hashem will be loath to break the marital set, and will be ready to overlook many of our even blatant misdeeds.  So put on your thinking cap on and make a commitment that once a week you’ll do something that is sure to put a smile on your mate’s face.  Perhaps a piece of watermelon, a new book or sefer, a walk around the block, a surprise call just to say hello, or even a funny joke by text message. One sure way to accomplish this mission is with a well thought out compliment or praise for something your partner did or accomplished this is always a sure way to make someone happy. Try to identify your mates little secret wishes and dreams and make it a goal to bring them to fruition. Remember we’re not talking mink coats and new kitchens  ,we’re talking a supise Sunday outing, a scented candle, a brocha from a Rebbe and many other thoughtful gestures. This is a hard one but it is a very great defense against the prosecutor.

If you don’t rinse out your mouth in the morning before davening, grab the commitment to do so.  You can fix in your mind that you are doing it so that the many Names of Hashem that you will articulate during davening will come from a clean and pleasant source.

These are just some ideas to spark your imagination.  I leave it up to you to come up with your own.  In the merit of our own tshuvah, may we all be blessed with a gmar chasima tova u’mesukah, a year where we know no medical scares, a year that is blessed with good health, happiness and everything wonderful.