A few weeks ago I chanced upon the book " 7 Habits of Highly Successful People", by Steven Covey. I'd never really read the book, so I sat down and skimmed through it. One idea he suggests is to stop from time to time and make sure that "our ladder is leaning against the right wall". In addition to climbing the ladder of life, always trying to reach a higher rung, we should make sure that that ladder is headed in the right direction.

I found that to be a brilliant statement. How often do we think to ourselves, "If only I had this or that, then I'd be happy?" We're not even sure what it would feel like if we'd have what we seek, but we chase it nonetheless. If we'd always make sure that the ladder we're trying to climb is leaning against the right wall, we'd probably have a much more focused, guided life.

This week is the final week of the Jewish year 5776 - next Sundayevening is Rosh Hashanah. In Temple times, the exact date of Rosh Hashanah, just like all other Jewish holidays, depended on the structure of the calendar. 

You see, the Jewish calendar is primarily Lunar, which means that the new month starts with the new moon. In order for the new month to begin, two certified witnesses had to testify in front of the High Court in Jerusalem that they'd seen the new moon.

This system was not due to the fact that no one knew when the new moon would appear. The High Court had numerous astronomers on its staff, who knew exactly when the new moon would be seen in the sky. Yet the Torah mandates waiting for two witnesses to actually have seen the new moon, in order for the new month to start.

Why? God created our world to be based on our mindset. From God's point of view, he already has it all figured out. He sees all and knows all. He sees the purpose in everything, knows exactly what'll happen to whom, and does not have any complications or challenges in running his world. The challenge, and purpose of creation, is for us to figure it out and live meaningful lives.

That is why they would wait for witnesses. The Torah wants our time, our life, to be private property. Not some amorphous, ethereal concept, but a very personal matter. Time on its own is just an empty slate - it's up to us to decide what our reality, what our time will look like- where our ladder will lead us.

As we begin the final week of the year, take the time to stop, for even five minutes, and refocus. Look inward, and make sure that the ladder is firmly placed on the wall of family, kindness, Torah, Mitzvos, caring and sharing. Then start climbing!

Rabbi Avrohom