Rabbi Avraham Nissanian, well-known speaker, shared a life-changing shiur on behalf of Eshel Avraham on Monday evening, December 28, on the subject of “Breaking Bad Habits.” “It is so hard to break a bad habit that we think there is no way to do it. Habits become so rooted that we don’t think about the needs of others.” He taught that “G-d created human beings with the ability to change their nature.”
To change our habits, we need to understand what a habit is and what does change mean. Rabbi Nissanian shared a story about a man walking with his student in a forest. They saw a man with six kids. The man who was passing by asked this man how he survives in the forest, and the forest dweller replied that he has a cow. The cow supplies all their needs, and what is left over he takes to the city to sell.
The man who was passing by told his student to drop the cow off a cliff. He did, though he felt it was strange to do this. A few years later, the student passed by the same place, and there was a nice house with cars. He asked the forest dweller what happened. He explained that after the cow fell, he had no way to support his family. He went to the city and opened a business. The business did so well that now he could purchase a nice house and live in luxury. Rabbi Nissanian explained that in our life we have this cow. We get used to it. “I’m happy. I can survive,” we say. We don’t internalize that if we change a little, we might succeed way beyond our imagination.
The Sefer HaChinuch teaches that a person can make himself get used to any situation. We all like routines and we don’t want to change the way we live. “We all have our own cow and our own habits, and we are happy with how things are.” So many times we want to change but we get used to the situation. If I’m happy with what I do, why change? He shared examples like people who are in the habit of speaking during davening, even though they know it’s wrong. Some people know that they need set times for learning, but they get used to working late, so they convince themselves that G-d will understand if they don’t study Torah. The more we become used to a sin, the less desire we have to change. In time, the sin becomes a “mitzvah.” Sadly, we can’t see the disadvantage we are causing ourselves by continuing in this way.” He shared the example of someone smoking. He knows it’s bad for his health, but he can’t stop doing it because he is used to doing it. However, when a situation arises and you have to change, then you will change right away. He shared how his father was a chain smoker, but when the doctor told him that he would die if he continued with one more cigarette, he stopped.
Rabbi Nissanian shared that “you can get used to a new habit faster than you can think of it.” We know we have certain things we need to change. “We need to evaluate our situation – to examine our behavior, our nature, our habits – and see how we can change it.” He taught that when we do something more often, it will change. “Practice makes perfect.” The more you pay attention to it, the more you can change your habits and get comfortable with the change.
Sometimes we have a habit of having certain reactions. For example, in a shalom bayis situation, if we want to change our spouse’s reaction to certain situations, then we need to do the following: First, understand how our spouse reacts, Then, communicate with our spouse to tell her (or him) that we don’t like their reaction. Third, work together to change their reaction. It is easy to blame others, but first we need to look at ourselves to see what we are doing wrong. “You need to bring unbiased logic to the picture. One way to do this is to examine what you do in certain situations, and think how you can do it better, and send this message to your heart. ”Knowledge must go to the heart, and the heart will bring you to change.” Sometimes a person does things because this is what he saw in his own home, and sometimes these are not good habits. He has to internalize a solution and make the first step to change.
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz taught that when the Egyptians were warned about the seventh plague, which was Hail, there were some who stayed outside and somehow didn’t bring their animals in. This was even though Moshe had proved again and again that what he said would happen, would happen. This is an example of the power of habit. The Torah teaches that when a person doesn’t care about what Hashem said, he will not realize the destruction he brings on himself and his family. So many times, couples argue for nonsense, just to prove he or she is right. Standing on your point, you can kill the evening with your family or the family outing, etc. “Just to prove I am right is 100 percent wrong.” If you want your spouse to see your point, change the way you say it. Use a different approach. Try to explain in a way that he or she will understand. “So many times, we hear things our way, and often it’s not what the person said to us.”
One technique is to use small sentences and ask at the end: Please tell me what you understand from what I said. In many cases, our spouse didn’t understand what we meant. After clarification, communicate; what did you understand now?
He pointed out that the Torah commanded us that a person should live with his newlywed wife and do nothing during this first year so he can adapt to her wishes and learn her habits. He should try to understand her and to respect her. He is obligated to make her happy and to protect her. “Once you learn to respect your spouse, she becomes part of yourself.”
“When we try to understand the obstacles in our lives and try to bring solutions to our heart to perform those solutions, then we can change our habits.”
This beautiful shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com
By Susie Garber