[responsivevoice]Well, boys and girls, it’s that time of the year again, when my Jewish brothers and sisters and I take stock. For those of us who want to refine our characters, this is The Time to do it.

Instead of just going after gross changes in my deeds, I see refining my character as a private matter between me and my thoughts. It’s not about what I do, but about what precedes it. I take personal inventory and examine myself under a magnifying glass; I go on a thorough search through the realm of my feelings and look at the very way my mind operates. Am I proud of the way I think, or am I ashamed?

This takes change to a more subtle level. The goal is to work on the motor that drives my actions, so that I nip this thinking in the bud before it manifests itself in the real world.

I was sitting at services last Friday night, in the women’s section, and a gentleman came in a bit late. When I caught a glimpse of him sitting down, I immediately began muttering to myself about his hairdo and outfit. I found his shirt very strange, so ugly and inappropriate to wear to temple. It had an unusually large epaulette on the shoulder, and I wasted precious prayer time wondering why anyone would buy such a thing in the first place.

It was then that the curtain parted and I realized that the epaulette was not a design choice but was, rather, part of an elaborate sling for his arm.

All of this took place in about a minute. It wasn’t as if I was busy for half an hour with it. But take this as an example, friends. I am so ashamed of myself, so disgusted with my stupid, critical, busy, off-the-track mind.

I am not proud of my habit of thinking critically about other people. I despise this character trait in myself, this Need that I have to break down whatever I’m looking at. The moment my mind gets busy with something like this, I need to do something about it. I should not indulge it, but should find a way to intercede and reverse my direction.

I have of late observed a new style trend among young women: short shorts which, as these young ladies move, flaunt the cheeks of their rear ends and allow them to peek-a-boo out of the bottom of the pants. When I see someone wearing these, I start generating idiotic theories and find myself in critical, super-silly places. Why can’t I just shut my mouth—my mind—and say nothing to myself? I need to learn how to accept things regardless of whether I agree with them or not.

If an eighty-year-old woman dyes her hair turquoise and jazzes herself up with bangles and spangles, God bless her. I do not have the right to have an opinion, even if I keep it to myself.

Irrespective of whether I’m caught red-handed or not, I set these kinds of standards for me and me alone.

This is simply a suggestion of one way to tackle spiritual refinement. May you all be well, happy, and live meaningful lives. Happy New Year. [/responsivevoice]