The birth of a new year is a time of reflection and resolution, when hope and inspiration fill the air. We dream about what this upcoming year holds in store for us, how we can make the rest of our life the best of our life. We all have ideas, ambitions, and aspirations that we yearn to bring to fruition, and the new year gives us “permission” to revisit these goals and breathe new life into them. For a brief moment, everything is crystal clear, we see our purpose and our path with vivid clarity. However, there is an underlying frustration that accompanies this time period, as well. If we reflect honestly, we often realize that our new year’s resolutions are awfully similar to those of last year, and the year before, and the year before…

“T’shuvah” is a word that’s often associated with this time of year. Yet, when we hear it, we often want to run away. Can I really make such massive changes in my life? How am I supposed to break the negative habits that are so deeply ingrained in me? Yom Kippur is right around the corner and my Torah learning, my t’filah, and my interpersonal relationships are nowhere near what they should be. This seems too daunting a task.

Time is infused with infinite spiritual richness, and each point in time is a wave that carries with it layers of depth. The cycle of holidays is a course of spiritual progression that we can tap into as we advance towards our ultimate personal and collective destination. The cycle of Torah reading provides this same opportunity. Each parshah has unique ideas and concepts that are particularly relevant to the time of year when it is read. As we go through this cycle, year after year, we propel our kabalas haTorah forward one level higher every year. Every time we restart the Torah cycle, we begin the same Torah, but on a more elevated level, turning the circular Torah cycle into an elevating spiral in time.

There was a peasant farmer in old Russia standing at the side of the road, weeping profusely. As he stood there, the Czar happened to pass by in his royal coach. The Czar saw the peasant, and when he noticed him weeping, he stopped his chariot to inquire what was wrong. The man tearfully explained that he had no land to farm, and thus he and his family were starving. The Czar, touched by this man’s misfortune, pulled out a stake from his chariot and drove it into the ground. He then gave the peasant three more stakes and instructed him: “Walk as far as you wish, and then drive this stake into the ground. Turn, walk again as far as you wish, and then place the next stake in the ground. Finally, turn again and walk as far as you’d like before placing the last stake in the ground. The land between the four stakes will be yours as a gift from me, the Czar.”