Just a quick Rosh Hashana message to take with us into the High Holy days.
The possuk tells us in Parshas Eikev: Eretz Asher Tamid Einei Hashem Elikecha Ba, M'reishis Hashana Ad Sof Shana. The land that Hashem keeps His eyes on (metaphorically) from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
Scrutinizing the words, we find something strange. a"- THE year- "M'reishis HAshana"-specified with a hey. But when it speaks about the end of the year, it's just "shana".
Why the change?
Because that´s exactly how my years proceed. In the beginning of the year I have major resolutions and vows. I promise to get rid of all my weaknesses and sins, and replace my horns with a halo. I will daven every day, I´ll listen to mussar CD´s in the car, I´ll smile more, I´ll be  more sensitive to people´s feelings. No more loshon horah- even if I really needa vent, and even if it's true, no more arguing, no more hating people for no reason- I'll open my heart and love everyone I meet, no more speaking disrespectfully to my parents, no more wearing painted on clothing- I'll be more modest this year, I´m gonna be super strict with my exercise routine, no more sugar, no more being judgemental, no more being jealous, no more getting angry- this year everything will simply roll off my back.....sounds familiar?
So the Satmar Rav of blessed memory tells us that this is why the hay is missing.
In the beginning of the year, it's all idealistic promises and even sincere dreams. HAshana. This is gonna be THE year. Im gonna become a different person. But then- what happens?  Ad sof shana. It just becomes a regular year. Nothing's changed. I still gossip helplessly. I still dress inappropriately. I´m still irritable, resentful, and envious. I still belittle people. I still have too much arrogance. I still argue with my parents. I'm still the same person I was before my vows.
Let's try to make this year THE year from the beginning of it, straight til the end of it. Let's carry our resolutions and convictions all the way through.
The only way to do this is to make sure that anything we decide to take upon ourselves as improvement is small enough that we will definitely be able to carry it out completely. When I say small, I mean tiny. So small that it'll seem silly and insignificant- but in the long run it's extremely significant and effective. Because that's the way to grow.
A few years ago after teaching a class on the importance of introspection and growth during Elul, a woman approached me eager to make some positive changes her life. She had an improvement list longer than Hollywood celebrities´ hair extensions. She was ready to change so many things in her life that she almost needed a new social security number. I stopped her abruptly, told her to put that list away for 6 months and burn it with the chometz. If she wants to make sincere changes and really adhere to them, she must choose one, and only one. Her choice: No more applying makeup on shabbos. Noble decision indeed. But I was still unsure if she would be able to be loyal to that promise forever. So slowly we broke it down into tiny pieces and chose one of those miniscule fragments as her personal spiritual development. She decided she will refrain from applying lip liner on shabbos. And she kept her word. As a side point, she is now completely shomeret shabbos.
In order to make this year THE year, we have to choose realistic resolutions and be consistent with them.
Let's also remember that the main point of Rosh Hashana is to be Mamlich Hashem L'Malchus.To place Hashem upon me as my God. To commit to recognize Him,  to accept Him, and to follow the 613 privileges He has given me.
K'SIVA V'CHASIMA TOVA. All your tefillos should be answered L'tovah.
-Till next year,
Yaffa Palti