Real and Lasting Change

April Dixon  |  September 5, 2022

Ethiopian woman wearing white shawl, hand held out as she prays.

After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. — Deuteronomy 21:13

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means “when you go out,” from Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19.

You probably have noticed that “30-Day Challenges” are all over the internet. You may have even tried one yourself! There are “30-Day Challenges” for everything from decluttering your house, to getting in shape, to cleaning up your finances. No matter the goal, the method is the same — to help us create significant change in just 30 days.

I want to introduce you to a 30-Day Challenge that the Jewish people have been taking part of every year for thousands of years. It’s a 30-day program to take our spiritual lives to the next level as we enter the new year on the Jewish calendar.

In a few weeks, the Jewish people will celebrate the High Holy Days or High Holidays, which include Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement. This is the holiest season on the Jewish calendar, and the entire month before these holy days is designated as a time for introspection and change. 

This month on the Hebrew calendar is called Elul, which began this year at sundown on Aug. 26. During Elul, we take thirty days to upgrade our spiritual lives before the new year begins.

Real and Lasting Change

There is actually a biblical basis for a 30-day challenge that we find in this week’s Torah portion. We read, “After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.”

The Torah portion opens with the rules of marrying a woman captured in war. Of course, these laws are not practiced today. We don’t take women captive in war. But even though these rules are no longer practical, there are many important lessons we still learn from them.

The Bible states that if a man wants to marry a woman who was captured in war, he must wait a month, taking care of her needs, before taking her as a wife. Why a month?

The sages of the Talmud explained that, among other reasons, a month is how long it takes for someone to adjust to a new lifestyle and make permanent changes. This woman — who would have come from a pagan, non-Israelite background — would need this month not only to mourn her family, but to leave her old ways behind. Only then would she be ready to embrace life as a member of the nation of Israel.

True growth is a gradual process — a process that happens over time. You need more than a day or an hour to make meaningful changes. As the Jewish people have practiced and learned over the years, the secret to real and lasting change for any endeavor is investing the time necessary to lay the proper groundwork.

Your Turn:

Would you like to make real and lasting change in some area of your life? Take a 30-Day Challenge and make a change!