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It’s Time for a Spiritual Growth Spurt

on Thursday, September 18 2014. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

While Human Growth Hormone is considered performing enhancing and has been banned by most professional sports, it is becoming increasingly necessary and popular with a different group. Pediatric endocrinologists will tell you that as a result of all of the hormones in our food, milk and even shampoo, many children’s growth is being highly affected. Some children are maturing too slowly while others are developing way too quickly. There is therefore a great proliferation today in the amount of children taking growth hormone to stimulate and control their development.

How do doctors know how much of the hormone to give them? Fascinatingly, Doctors do a bone age study by x-raying a child’s left wrist. They can examine the growth plates and predict with a very high accuracy how much time the child has left to grow. They may find there are eight months or twelve months or even two years left for this child to reach the height that they will live at the rest of their lives. Doctors then prescribe a dose based on the finding to maximize the child’s height in the time that he or she has left to grow.

We have a finite window of time to grow physically. Indeed, most of those reading this are done growing. You may want to be 7 feet tall or dream of dunking a basketball. However, you can take all the growth hormone in the world, if you are done growing, it is simply too late. You are as tall as you are going to get.

However, what is true for our bodies is not at all true for our souls. Remarkably, when it comes to personal character growth, there is no window that closes. We have the potential and capacity to grow spiritually and emotionally at any point in our lives. It is never too late. A person can be ninety five years old, on their death bed, and experience an incredible growth spurt if they simply decide to be different, to become better, to look at something a different way or to change a belief they have held for many years.

Beginning this Saturday night through Neilah of Yom Kippur we are going to recite the phrase “al tashlicheinu l’eis zikna, kichlos kocheinu al ta’azveinu.” It is normally translated as, “Do not cast us away in old age; when our strength gives out, do not forsake us.” But if that is the meaning, shouldn’t it say b’eis zikna, don’t cast us away during the time of old age. Why does it say l’eis, to old age instead?

The Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Eliezer Waldenburg offers an explanation that will change the way you say this sentence not only this year, but every year gong forward. He explains that our impression is that young people are filled with energy, vitality and aspiration. They have their whole life ahead of them to grow, mature, develop and change. Older people, we tend to think, are set in their ways, fixed in their behavior and unlikely to change.

We ask Hashem, “al tashlicheinu l’eis zikna,” don’t cast me away or give up on me as if I can’t change, as if I am old, and set in my ways. Don’t forsake me when I don’t believe I have the strength to change. Help me recognize, Hashem, whether I am young or old, healthy or infirm, that I have the capacity to change, that I can be different, that I am not stuck in my ways and that it is me to become better.

We are just a few days away from Rosh Hashana. Now is the time for a spiritual growth spurt. Judaism teaches “ein davar ha’omeid bifnei ha’ratzon, nothing stands in the face of our will.” The Ohr Gedalyahu, Rav Gedalya Schorr explains that our actions and reach are limited. Our speech is finite as there is only so much we can say. But our will, our desire, our ability to dream about who we can become and what we want to accomplish is limitless and therefore nothing stands in its way.

Let’s fulfill our dreams together through recognizing our spiritual vitality, youthfulness and ability to grow, no matter what our age.

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