The Gates of Zest Open


When are we able to approach life with excitement and energy — even if we are not looking forward to something, specifically?  When are we able to put our all into what we are doing — living life as an adventure, and feeling alive and activated?

Just as your hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so this small earthly life keeps us from seeing the vast radiance that fills the core of the universe…If you never want to see the face of hell – when you come home from work every night, dance with your kitchen towel.  And if you’re worried about waking up your family, take off your shoes.

-Reb Nachman of Breslov

How can we summon the inner resources to release the energy for living well — especially in this time of year, are we able to release our toxins — release our resentments in order for us to see a world, not suffering in our gaze?  What is really important — of what are we able to let go?


There is a saying:  two monks are walking beside a river.  A young woman asks for help to get across.  Once monk scoffs, clearly annoyed at the suggestion — the other takes her on his shoulders, and they all cross the river.  Miles later, the first monk is still bitter.  The second monk says, “brother, I only carried her for mere yards — you have been carrying her all the way since we first saw her.”  What have we been carrying for so long?  Where does our zest reside — how far beneath our displeasure?


Take full responsibility for your life — don’t wait for someone else to change.  As we are on the threshold of Yom Kippur, allow yourself to forgive yourself and to make peace with yourself for the decisions that you have made — today, beyond all of your wants and ambitions, love your life as it is.  Do something for yourself today.  Eat something that pleases you, seek an activity that you enjoy.  Listen to a song that reminds you of a happy time in your life.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Seek out simple beauty today — the colors around you, the shape of things in your home or office.  Admire objects that you have previously purchased — remember why you still have them.  Play with a puppy.  Smile at a toddler.  Do something nice for someone.  Practice your smile in the mirror, and then take it with you wherever you go.

This is the last in this series on the Yamim Noraim character strengths.  We thank so many of you for your responses, and encourage you to continue to mediate on and incorporate these ideas.

Here are links to our Rosh haShanah divrei Torah on these topics:

Rabbi Neil Blumofe:

Rabbi Gail Swedroe:

Here is the link to all of our daily messages on character strengths:

For more information about the VIA Institute, and to take a character strengths survey, so you can identify your signature strengths: