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Do NOT Curb Your Enthusiasm!

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Labor Day- check. Selichot- tomorrow night. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur- imminent. Are you ready for yet another holiday? And I don’t mean Sukkot or even Hoshanah Rabbah! Get this! I just learned that this past week was- drumroll please- the International Week of Enthusiasm. You heard me right. The International Week of Enthusiasm. Now, you may ask, according to whom? And, my candid reply, – I have no idea. Researched it on line and all I could find is that yes, it’s a real thing, it was this week, and, of course, that was all I needed to embrace it- enthusiastically! Zerizut, Enthusiasm, is one of the primary middot or character traits that we study and practice in Mussar, the Jewish wisdom of cultivating and expanding our soul-traits. Zerizut is a little bit of a struggle for me on my personal spiritual curriculum. On the one hand, I am highly enthusiastic most of the time about most things. In fact, zerizut has gotten me into a bit of trouble sometimes. I have gotten so enthusiastic about preparing for something far in advance that when the event is cancelled I feel that I labored in vain. On the other hand, the Mussar masters are very clear that part of zerizut involves leaping out of bed the moment one awakens, and in that regard- mission failure. I haven’t, yet, abandoned my habit of lounging for a few moments, or, let’s be honest, even more than a few, and further, I haven’t really tried. I am decidedly unenthusiastic about this aspect of enthusiasm. But in general I am pro-enthusiasm and thought it was a good thing for all of us to reflect on during this International Week of Enthusiasm. The patriarch Abraham was a role model of enthusiasm. We read not once, not twice, but three times about how HE woke up early. And he notably ran to greet his angelic visitors, in contrast to his nephew Lot who simply rose in his place when they came to him. An enthusiastic reception, for sure! Hillel famously taught, “If not now, when?” (Pirke Avot 1:14), seemingly the definition of enthusiasm! And as we enter into this, yes, final week before the High Holidays, it does seem like a good idea to stop procrastinating on whatever is on our own agenda to prepare for the new year and get moving! Have you made time to reflect on the year that is ending and any changes you’d like to make in the year ahead? Are there relationships in need of repair? What is it that we are enthusiastic about yet haven’t made time for? Let’s make it a priority this week. Not sure what you are enthusiastic about? Prioritize thinking about it! Bring some intentional focus to your planning. WHILE I was writing these words, I interrupted my writing to read an incoming email. Probably not the wisest practice, but boy did her words resonate- “You can only do one thing at a time, so stay present and make sure you take care of yourself.” She’s right. We need to be able to stay in the moment. And it’’s hard to be enthusiastic if we don’t get enough sleep, good food, and regular exercise. Being involved in things we love to do- like writing divrei Torah- definitely makes it easier. So figure out what you are passionate about and the enthusiasm will flow. Being surrounded by enthusiastic people is also super-helpful. Susan Rabin put it this way- “Enthusiasm is contagious. Be a carrier.” If you’re feeling challenged in your zerizut, consider setting a small, achievable goal. Once you accomplish that goal, you will have more confidence in your ability to apply enthusiasm in other areas. Enthusiasm has rightfully been defined as “our souls in action.” We have one more week to enthusiastically prepare for the new year that is just around the corner. It’s time to put our souls into action. And if all THAT doesn’t inspire you, I’ll leave you with the words of Vince Lombardi- “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”

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