Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

As Yom Kippur approaches

Every week, I sit down to write this blog. There are times when I’ve been thinking all week about the topic I want to hit on, like politics or how bias and “othering” hurts us all, but the truth is that I don’t always know what I want to write about. Not even when I face the blank digital page in front of me. Today is one of those days.

To fill space just to keep a self-imposed schedule doesn’t strike me as smart. At the same time, there is something to be said for developing the self-discipline of routine. And perhaps this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a fitting time to be giving thought to priorities and changes in behavior.

Self discipline is an interesting concept. Imposing discipline on oneself. But to be a disciple is to be a follower. So, if we fail to follow our own rules, are we failing ourselves? Definitely. But that is no reason not to try again.

How do we force ourselves to keep our promises or to do the right thing? By prioritizing, by making certain behaviors part of our routine, by giving it thought, by choosing to live by rules which are larger than ourselves, by applying some self-discipline.

In Hebrew, self-discipline is Mishmat Atzmit (משמעת עצמית). Atzmit is reflexive. Myself. But Mishmat is from the root shin-mem-ayin (ש-מ-ע), the same root as to hear. Are we listening to ourselves? Do we hear that still small voice inside us that wants to guide us to making better choices? Or is it drowned out by other competing voices inside our heads?

I used to believe that everyone had an innate sense of right and wrong, but I know that values are taught, and not always taught or absorbed well. I think the other part of the equation is that no matter what the rules are or where justice lies, each person always has a choice to make, and that choice is often driven by wants and desires, not by what is right. Even when deciding what is best, there are choices – best for oneself, best for loved ones, best for friends or colleagues, best for society. And this is where disconnects grow larger and true priorities get expressed.

So, let’s step back. And figure out which voice to listen to. What are our goals and purposes? Are they good for only us or for others too? Where do we want to go and how do we want to get there? Can we map it? And do we have the self-discipline it takes to get there?

As for me, even as I am often driven by current events, perhaps it is time to set an editorial calendar. Thoughts? Suggestions on anything to write about that you’ve not seen yet? (And if you want to take an easier look at what I have done, please do check out this piece on LinkedIn where I’ve compiled teasers and links to every single blog I’ve written, all on one page.)

Wishing everyone an easy and meaningful fast.

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture. Since returning to the U.S. in 2003; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta. An Ashkenazi mom to Mizrahi sons born in Israel and the US, MIL to a French Mizrahi DIL and an Israeli DIL whose parents are also an interesting mix, and a step mom to sons born in the South, she celebrates trying to see from multiple perspectives and hopes this comes out in her blogs. While working in Jewish and Zionist education and advocacy, Wendy's interests also have her digging deep into genealogy and bringing distant family together. All of this is to say, Wendy's life has brought her to the widened framework she uses for her blogs: there are many ways to see and understand.
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