The Mishkoltz Rebbe apparently claimed that we will merit Mashiach this year if we strengthen ourselves in the following 3 ways:
- Emuna in the Creator of the World
- Achdut (Unity) within Am Yisrael
I admit that I also automatically interpreted this in mind as doing teshuvah until my extrapolation (an extrapolation which another reader apparently also made & fortunately mentioned) was clarified in the comments.
And I think it's important to note that crucial difference.
The Rebbe apparently said l'hitchazek (to strengthen) ourselves in those 3 areas.
He didn't say to do teshuvah (even though, yes, strengthening these areas is definitely an aspect of teshuvah).
He didn't say to become perfect.
He didn't say to conquer even one bad middah.
He didn't even say to perfect yourself in "just" those 3 areas (or in even 1 of them).
He said l'hitchazek.
Wherever you are, whatever level you're holding on: l'hitchazek.
Bulk it up.
In other words: Go 1 babystep beyond your current level or comfort zone.
L'hitchazek in emuna can mean saying "Gam zu l'tovah" or "Thank you" (even through gritted teeth or tears), or "Hashem, I understand that my suffering is seemingly very bad. I even feel tremendous pain. My tribulations seem unbearable, but I believe they're all for the best despite the fact that I don't see how..."
It can mean talking to Hashem more, going over your day (or even just the past hour) and discussing with Him what happened and what you think or how you feel about it.
It can mean staying silent in the face of an insult and mentally requesting something you really want from Hashem instead of answering back.
Force yourself to smile (at Hashem), even when things are going wrong and even when the smile feels more like a grimace, all awkward and tight.
It can mean a whole lot of things.
L'hitchazek means you don't need to be completely victorious, just up your game a bit.
You can learn more Torah. You can learn your same Torah, but with more enthusiasm or satisfaction. You can work on internalizing what you learned; how can you apply it practically within the next hour?
You can learn more mussar -- even one line a day from a classic sefer like Mesilat Yesharim or Chassidus or Orchot Tzaddikim or Pele Yoetz.
You can learn more halacha, even just 1 a day.
You can look into the commentaries for a deeper understanding of your favorite Tehillim or a particularly interesting part of Tanach.
Giving tzedakah. (Chabad has a lovely custom of saying, "Hareini mekabel/mekabelet alei mitzvat asei 'V'ahavta l're'echa k'mocha' -- Behold, I now accept upon myself fulfillment of the positive mitzvah 'And you shall love to your fellow as yourself'.")
Visiting the sick (can include making a meal or even just a salad).
Giving the benefit of the doubt.
Davening for someone.
Finding some positive quality within even a truly repellent person (not to justify or excuse their awfulness, but just to note that the good point exists).
Accepting an apology.
Greeting others (of your own gender).
Doing a favor.
Resisting the urge to speak any kind of lashon hara (even if it's true), imagining that the person is your twin sister or brother, or your child. How would you feel about them then?
Again, the list could go on. A lot depends on your personality, individual situation and resources, including your challenges and your areas of strength.
May we all merit l'hitchazek in emuna, Torah, and achdut this year.