“On this the poets will say: Come to Cheshbon; let it be built and established, city of Sichon.” (Bamidbar/Numbers 16:28). The Torah reflects on the history of Chesbon. History is nice, but why this lengthy elucidation?
The parsha for this Sabbath is a double one, Chukas and Balak. Parshas Chukas discusses the mysterious commandment of the red heifer, Miriam’s death and the subsequent stopping of the well of water, Moses’s and Aaron’s error and punishment for disobeying G-d when supplying water to the people, the death of Aaron, the attack of the Amalekites, and the wars with Sichon and Og.
Parshas Balak details how Balak, the king of Moab, attempted to have Bilaam, the greatest non-Jewish prophet of all time, curse the Children of Israel. Included is the wonderful story of the talking donkey, my wife’s and my favorite in all of Tanach. The Parsha ends with the somewhat frightening event in which Pinchas spears Zimri, a prince of the tribe of Shimon, and his Mindianitess lover in public at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
The Talmud (Bava Basra 78b) interprets the above verse as, “‘the poets’ refers to those who rule over their impulses. ‘Come to Chesbon’ means come and make a calculation of your behavior.” Indeed in everyday parlance, a chesbon is an accounting of your behavior.
Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto noted that a person should work on overcoming negative habits and traits. Just like a businessman carefully tracks his investments, so too a person should make an accounting each day of his behavior so as to improve himself.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What did I accomplish today?
- How far have I come in meeting my long-term goals?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses
- Did I accomplish what I intended?
- How am I going to improve for tomorrow?
- What is holding me back from growing or what will help me grow more?
It need not take a long time. I spend about 10 to 15 minutes making my daily accounting. Having done so for about a year now, I find that I am repeating mistakes less often. While it is not as rapid as I might like, nonetheless I am improving.
Most importantly, when you identify your progress be joyful about it. Find encouragement in your ability to improve, to reform your character despite whatever faults you have and mistakes you repeat. By focusing on the positive you will motivate yourself to ever greater accomplishment and refinement.
Question – How do you motivate yourself to keep improving despite setbacks?
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