The Power of Teshuvah – Day 18
Strategy 2: Small Steps
If Ari had $1,000 to give to tzedakah, should he give the entire sum to one recipient, or give $10 to 100 recipients? The more frequent, smaller donations are preferable, because more frequent giving reinforces our self-image as “givers.”
This is the case in all spiritual matters: “All is according to the abundance of the action … As much as one monumental, selfless act can have a great impact on a person and change him or her for the better, 100 smaller deeds will eventually have an even greater influence.”
Change is not a one-time occasion; it is a process in which each step is valuable. Once change is initiated, it nourishes itself allowing small changes the potential to snowball into big changes.
Reuven wants to increase his strength, so he buys a 150-pound weight and plans on lifting it as many times as he can each night. After two repetitions, his muscles ache and he quits. By the third night, he has given up altogether.
Shimon likewise wishes to grow stronger. He buys a 20-pound weight and lifts it 15 times a night for one week. Then he increases to 35 times each night. After that, he buys a 50-pound weight and steadily works his way up. In a matter of months, he is lifting 150 pounds with no strain.
Likewise, each repetition of a small victory over the yetzer hara — the tefillah you don’t skip, the sarcastic remark you don’t say — strengthens the yetzer tov.
By the same token, small accommodations to the yetzer hara build its power. The battle for our souls is fought choice by choice, mitzvah by mitzvah. God promises that when we choose His will, even in the smallest matter, He will expand the opening we have made in our hearts.
One has to “seize the moment” of Heavenly help to make the “opening the size of the point of a needle,” which brings us to complete teshuvah. In fact, the act of grabbing the moment is the person’s “opening of the [needle’s] point.”
It is in small steps that we approach God. This is indicated by the three steps forward we take before reciting Shemoneh Esrei. They represent the three times the word Vayigash — and he approached — appears in Tanach. Even though God is everywhere, by deliberately taking three steps forward, we demonstrate our desire to come closer to Him.
Each year, the king would venture from the palace to observe his subjects. One year, a poverty-stricken couple was informed that they would be the beneficiaries of a royal visit. The husband immediately began to repaint and repair his rundown dwelling. The wife, however, discouraged his effort. “This is how we live,” she said. “Why put on a false face?”
“The point,” the husband replied, “is to show the king that we are honored by his visit.”
No matter where we stand during the year, it is to our benefit to take small steps to effective teshuvah in anticipation of our King’s “visit.”
Points to Ponder:
- It is preferable to consistently do small mitzvos than occasional grand mitzvos.
- Setting small goals feeds success and builds into major changes.
- Hashem expands the power of our small efforts.