The question this season is: What are your New Year’s resolutions?
My answer is: Asking people, “How are you moving toward health this year?” I believe the more we ask each other that question, the more we will move toward the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam–World Repair.
Tikkun Olam is interpreted in Wikipedia as “an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially,” but I believe Michael Jackson’s song, “Man in the Mirror” puts the timeless message best: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. No message can be any clearer: If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
My step toward health this year will is to order my calendar and life around things that are restorative: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
You see I have a tendency to get way over-involved in life. I offer unwanted advice to my family and friends. I jump in and take charge in situations where others have a different timetable of progress. And before long, I am so over-engaged in things I am passionate about that I am exhausted and resentful. I chastise myself. Why do I keep doing this?
My answer is—I love all these people, causes, and engagements. But I keep piling them on the plate until I get sick, so much so that I explode into resentment, envy, and judgment. The problem is not the things on my plate. The problem is my lack of priorities and portion control.
Nutrarians prioritize meals by putting healthy things on their plates first—salad, veggies, fruits. Then you add the proteins, fats, etc. to make sure you are getting the proper nutrients. Spiritual health is the same way. I need to put things on my plate that bring health first. Those should take up most of the space.
The Jewish tradition spells out 3 major ways to accomplish Tikkum Olam—world health:
My family has kept Sabbath for 30+ years now. When the children were young we called it “Family Day”. When they were teenagers it morphed into “FFF-Forced Family Fun.” Whatever the name, the message was clear: delighting in the things that God created for us to enjoy was restorative. Whether we walked in the woods, went to a museum, or had a picnic together, the day was a marker in the hamster wheel of life, when we stopped, took notice and gave thanks for the things most important to us. Sabbath reminds us that we are not the center of the universe. The world can turn without us for one day without falling apart. It’s hard to believe and coordinate, but once you begin, you can’t live without Sabbath because you arise restored and ready to give life to the new week.
Sabbath-keeping is the first step in the start of a promising new year. The Rabbinical Assembly’s Prayerbook, Siddur Sim Shalom, published “A Prayer for Our Country” that includes the powerful verses which are an example of ethical and charitable living, a great model for Tikkun Olam:
“May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony to banish all hatred and bigotry, uniting all people in peace and freedom, helping them to fulfill the vision of your prophet: ‘Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war anymore.’”
May this be our prayer for 2019. May we join together in Tikkum Olam. I ask you, “How are you moving toward health this year?”