I have an annoying habit of leaving the pots I cooked with in the sink over Shabbat. By the end of Shabbat, I have added all the dishes. It is not a pretty sight. I have a friend who often comes over who sometimes, despite my remonstrations, washes them. It's embarrassing. I hate doing dishes!

So what do I do when my friend does not do my dishes for me? I do them a bit at a time. Five items and that's it. I start after Shabbat. Usually I'm done by Tuesday - Wednesday at the latest - but I definitely am ready to start again by Friday morning.

I know I have totally grossed out some people and perhaps made a few others feel better, but the point of this is not my pathetic housekeeping skills. Rather, it is the metaphor one can derive from it.

We tend to get ourselves up to our elbows in guck, mired in mess, overwhelmed by the results of the buildup of bad decision. And we hardly even notice until we can't help but notice the extra pounds, the extra bills, the guilt. But, we can apply the same strategy that I use to do dishes to wending our way out of the morass.

We tend to get ourselves up to our elbows in guck...Pound by pound, ounce by ounce we can lose the extra weight. Payment by payment and one less purchase added to one less purchase, we can pay back the credit card debt. Smile by smile, positive interaction by positive interaction, we can heal the relationship, and prayer by prayer, mitzvah by mitzvah, we can grow closer to G‑d.

Perhaps a better metaphor is cleaning for Passover. Months before Passover, we gird ourselves for battle against dirt and chametz. We draw up schedules, buy cleaning supplies, assign tasks, set deadlines and grit our teeth. By Passover, our houses are ready. The task was daunting and overwhelming but by dividing it up into small increments, the job is done.

There is one difference between the dishes and Passover cleaning, and all the other things I mentioned. In the former, we have no choice so we do it. In the latter, it's up to us to develop the self-discipline.

How we do that? Task by task, challenge by challenge, minute by minute, day by day.