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    The Gemara in

    Masechet Eruvin

    cites Rabbi

    Yehoshua as telling

    of his experiences

    when he was once

    hosted by a certain family. The

    first night, the woman served a

    large, scrumptious meal, and he

    ate everything in his plate. The

    next night, the woman once again

    served a spectacular dinner, and

    he finished every last bit of food

    he was given. But on the third

    night, he took one bite…and could

    not continue eating. The food

    tasted horrible. It was way too

    salty. The woman asked him why

    he wasn’t eating. The Rabbi had

    to think fast, and he tried to

    explain his behavior by saying that

    he had already eaten earlier, so he

    wasn’t hungry. The woman

    questioned his explanation, asking

    why suddenly that day he had

    eaten earlier. The Hid”a, one of

    the great Sephardic sages,

    uncovers for us the depth and

    meaning of this seemingly

    peculiar story. He explained that

    this is a powerful depiction of life.

    In our youth, we indulge, and

    overindulge, in the pleasures of

    this world. We involve ourselves

    in vanity and do inappropriate

    things in our desire to “consume”

    the entire “plate” – to enjoy

    everything there is to enjoy in life.

    During the next stage of life, in the

    early part of adulthood, say, in our

    30s and 40s, we do the same. We

    finish the entire “plate,” pursuing

    more money, more luxury, and

    more gratification, sometimes

    doing things that we are not

    supposed to be doing. But then, in

    the third stage, in a person’s later

    years, the “food” no longer

    “tastes” good. Older people do not

    have the same “appetite” as

    younger people. It is much easier

    to refrain from forbidden activities

    in our older years, when they are

    far less appealing. The message of

    this story, the Hid”a explained, is

    that we must be willing and

    prepared to leave some of the

    “food” on the “plate” even when it

    “tastes” good, when we find it

    appealing. We don’t get too much

    credit for abstaining from

    improper conduct in our older

    years, when we are not drawn to it.

    We need to do so when we are still

    young and find the forbidden

    “food” appealing. One of the

    greatest obstacles to growth and

    change is the fear we all have of

    leaving “food” on the “plate.” We

    are reluctant to change because we

    are afraid of missing out. Some

    people are afraid to properly

    observe Shabbat because they will

    miss certain activities. Some

    people are afraid to commit to

    another Torah class because they

    will miss the free time. We

    naturally feel reluctant to make

    sacrifices, to deny ourselves

    “food” that looks so appealing.

    The solution to this problem is to

    JUST TRY. It can’t hurt to try

    something new for a short while

    and see how it works out. This is

    something all of us can do. There

    are many things in life we miss out

    on because we’re afraid to try

    something new. The way to

    overcome that fear is to tell

    ourselves that we’re just going to

    try and see how it goes. If we find

    it is too difficult, then at least

    we’ve tried. That’s all. The month

    of Elul is the time when we are

    supposed to be thinking about how

    we can change and make ourselves

    better. If we want this period to

    have a real effect, we need to

    overcome our instinctive fear of

    change, and not be afraid to try

    new things. This is the first step to

    what will, hopefully, be a process

    of real and significant change that

    will last for the rest of our lives.