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A few notes to help jumpstart your new year

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

I offer to all of you, dear readers, two small, practical suggestions on how to make resolutions for the new year that you actually have a chance of keeping ...

1) Start small.

This is the wisdom of, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." The rabbis of my Jewish tradition taught, "One who tries to grasp too much ends up grasping nothing." (in Hebrew: tafasta merubah lo tafasta). Let's say your goal is to lose a big bunch of weight this year. Trying to lose it all is very hard and depressing when you fail. However, what if your goal is just to lose two pounds a month, or a half a pound a week? That is not such a daunting task and if you stick with it after a year you will be half way to your goal. Start small.

2. Do not try to teach what cannot be learned.

Again the ancient rabbis taught modern wisdom, "Just as it is a commandment from God to teach what can be learned, so too it is a commandment not to teach what cannot be learned." This odd but deeply wise advice seems to be defeatist, but the opposite is true. We often barrage people with advice we think they should take and then we are confused or even angered when they do not take it, and they do not take our advice because they are not ready for our advice. I omit the reason that sometimes they do not take our advice because our advice is just wrong. So how about a New Year's Resolution in which we all resolve to be more sparing with our advice and more generous with our love. Let us just resolve to try to teach what can be learned and leave what cannot be learned for another day -- for another year.

Happy New Year!

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Update: My column on a reader's question about guns in church caused a not-so-small ruckus.

For some, the idea of worshippers taking steps to be protected from attack seemed both moral and prudent.

J from Northport in Long Island, N.Y., wrote:

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