More from the book The Spirit of the Seasons, Insights into the Yomim Tovim by Jonathan Shooter...
Rosh Hashana: Getting our Priorities Right
based on a shiur by Rav Shlomo Brevda
Let us understand certain facts about the way Hashem created us. Man was made with a physical guf, with all that it desires, and also a ruchnius neshama. These elements contradict each other and have separate agendas. However, they are supposed to make peace, with the guf surrendering to the neshama, and certainly not the opposite. However, these are unique times, most of the world live with their neshama being subservient to the guf. The servant has rebelled and become king, the guf now tells the neshama what to do.
...Using Torah and mitzvos, we are meant to attempt to tame the guf and train it. Until the neshama succeeds, the guf is in armed conflict with the neshama. The neshama wants to learn Torah, whilst the guf wants to eat and enjoy itself.
...'Man sees what his eyes behold, but Hashem sees into the heart' (Shmuel I 16:7). Hashem's requirements of man lie not in his deeds, but in the avodah of the heart. The test is, how close a person is to Hashem, and what are his desires and longings. Is his essence about getting closer to Hashem, or about the vanities of this world. With this as the key, a person can realise where he stands, whether his desires are towards spirituality, or physicality.
...We have an obligation to do teshuva for mistaken beliefs and values. The Ramban says that no one can have a part in the Torah of Moshe unless he believes that all our experiences are miracles from Hashem, that there is no natural or customary order to the world. If a person does mitzvos then he is rewarded, if he sins then he is punished. It follows that when a person thinks 'My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth' (Devarim 8:17) then he is going against this principle and is in effect practising idolatry.
When we go after materialism, we become more self assured and think we are in control, yet really everything depends on mitzvos and aveiros. We have to believe that everything is from Hashem and not just random and by chance. ...This is the avodah of these days, to totally accept the idea that everything is from Hashem and that there is nothing besides this....