Did You Make that Resolution?

Want to lose weight?  Me too.  And so did 84 female housekeepers in seven different hotels who typically clean fifteen rooms a day. They were measured for physiological health variables affected by exercise and then two Harvard University psychologists informed half the women (untruthfully) that their daily work alone constituted enough exercise to make them lose weight and keep healthy.

In 2007, Psychological Science reported that those in the informed group lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and had significantly healthier body-fat percentage, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio while the others had no changes.

What you believe can make your body do amazing things.

Making resolutions is easier than keeping them but how do we increase the likelihood of keeping them all year and really achieving meaningful results?  There is much useful advice to be found, but here is one spiritual key to keeping your New Year resolutions.

Generally, when are you most likely to keep your word?  Often, the answer depends on how much you value the person to whom you make the promise.

For example, if you assure your college roommate that you’ll stop leaving your clothing lying around the dorm you might occasionally forget to keep your word.  Your roommate is, after all, just your roommate.  However, if you assure your boss, who has put your job on the line, that you’ll make ten sales calls each day, you might just keep your word.

A resolution is making a promise to yourself. If you promise yourself, say, to stop smoking, keeping your resolution will partially depend upon how important and worthy you think you are.

It is helpful to think of abandoning a resolution as a sin.  You should carefully  think before pledging your word to others and so you should seriously think before pledging to yourself. You will make fewer resolutions, but be more likely to keep them.

Examine these five verses.  The word inside the brackets shows the Hebrew.…

  1. when [ki] a person will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:1)
  2. If [im] the anointed kohen [priest] will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:3)
  3. If [im] the entire congregation of Israel will err…
    (Leviticus 4:13)
  4. When [asher] a ruler sins…
    (Leviticus 4:22)
  5. If [im] one individual from among the people of the land will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:27)

Significantly, in one chapter describing the same action, three different Hebrew words are used for ‘when’ or ‘if’.  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the three Hebrew words used above imply different levels of probability.

  • asher means it will almost definitely happen.
  • ki means it will probably happen.
  • im means it might but probably not.

Verse 1 acknowledges that an ordinary person by himself will probably sin.

Verse 2 declares that a special priest probably won’t.

Verse 3 that everyone in a group will probably not all commit the same sin at the same time.

Verse 4 reminds us that a ruler has many temptations and will surely sin.

Verse 5 gives us an amazing insight. It seems to be speaking about an individual, just like the first verse. But a different word is used, implying that this time the individual has a smaller chance of sinning. By seeing himself as a worthy part of a group, including remarkable people like anointed priests and rulers, he is more likely to weigh his actions carefully.

God wants us to feel morally worthy and even holy.  Seeing ourselves as part of an important group, rather than only focusing on ourselves as individuals can help. We can also elevate our sense of self-worth by recognizing our role as a child of God.  Extending our connection to others we respect reinforces in us that we are morally worthy and significant. Just as we tend to be careful when committing to other people, we should be careful with commitments made to ourselves.


adapted from  Thought Tool  Jan. 4, 2012

14 thoughts on “Did You Make that Resolution?”

  1. Hello Rabbi,

    Thanks for the amazing work you and Susan do.

    I recently got Perils of Profanity and it transformed my thinking! It also inspired an article I wrote in one of my regular columns [we have a policy not to publish links but anyone who wishes to see the article can search for Akanna Okeke, The Day My Dog Spoke to Me] that blessed others too.

    Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you, Akanna. We enjoyed your parable and are gratified to know that it blessed your readers. We would very much appreciate it if you would give attribution to http://www.rabbidaniellapin.com at the bottom of your piece for the content from Perils of Profanity that you used. Blessings.

  2. Dear Rabbi,

    Have you ever done or considered translation of any New Testament writings? As a faithful follower of Christ and a loyal listener/supporter of yours I’m intrigued to find some of the Hebrew meanings in the other parts of the KJV of the Bible.

    Thanks, Kadell

    1. You are, Kadel, as they say ‘barking up the wrong tree.’ Our knowledge and passion are confined to the TaNaCH – the Jewish Scriptures.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Kadell–
      I am not at all sure that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. As a matter of fact, it was, I believe, written in an early form of Greek. So I wouldn’t have much to add there. Additionally, as a Jew, all my attention is focused on what is often called the Old Testament or what I call the Tanach. And as the distinguished sage, Clint Eastwood said in Magnum Force, “A good man always knows his limitations!”

  3. Thanks a lot Rabbi, as usual it was insightful and thought provoking. These are things that even if you read the Bible for a hundred years and without a rabbi, you will never get. I just have one question, what happened to Susan’s musings as they don’t come as regularly? I look forward to both your thought tools and her musings. I really appreciate the two perspectives i get from the two. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Rita. A few months ago, we separated Susan’s Musings from Ask the Rabbi. While they used to come in the same mailing, they now are two separate ones. However, a Musing has gone out every week. If you missed any, you can find them here: https://rabbidaniellapin.com/category/susans-musings/, or there is a navigation link to it at the top of each page on our website.

      1. Thanks a lot Susan. I am a young mother and i really appreciate anything you mention on parenting. Like recently on TCT you mentioned how you impacted critical thinking skills on your children, which is something i can adopt for my 5 year old. God Bless you and your family.

        1. It’s always nice to hear what different stages our readers and TCT viewers are at. Thank you.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you for writing Rita–
      I try my hardest to make it unarguable that ‘everyone needs a rabbi!’

  4. Great piece! I have a suggestion: Maybe it’s already available but I’m too un-tech-savvy to know how, but a button to push so I can print copies of your Thoughtools would be very handy. I’m old-fashioned and like paper copies of things so I can give them to others I think might enjoy them. Having the option to print directly from the site would make it easier than cutting and pasting. Keep up the great work!

  5. Dear, Rabbi, I appreciate your sharing and teaching of the Hebrew language. I watch your show on TCT and am always blessed by you and your wife’s insights. This email caused me to recall Proverbs 18:21, which of course you know, says that life and death are in the power of the tongue (English translation). Words are very powerful as I believe that Jehovah “spoke” the world into existence. Many blessings to you, Sir!

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