Rosh Hashanah shows up at a busy time, in the middle of many transitions of the season. Kids are back to school, workers are back to a regimented work schedule. The days are grow shorter, the seasons change. And there’s mention of Thanksgiving, sweaters, and fires in the fireplace. It’s humbling, really, to see how these changes come about and then settle, without much human guidance. And as you can see, I’m writing after the fact. It’s easy to let the business of Fall distract me from the reality of being human, and therefore, flawed. I make mistakes. My expectations and standards aren’t always acheivable, whether for myself or others. And I don’t give myself credit for accomplishments and advancements.
But the Jewish New Year is a mandatory time to reflect not only on what didn’t go so well but also what went extremely well. It allows me to contemplate which experiences I will put to rest and which ones I will claim as worthy to keep with me moving forward. And since this religious holiday time is actually named the Days of Awe, I technically had 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur to contemplate and process my successes and failures in the past year.
Unlike January 1st, Rosh Hashanah begins with a celebration, where we say, “Yay! I made it. I was in the Book of Life for another year after all!” Then 10 days later at sundown on Yom Kippur, we feast after having fasted for the day, in the hope of shedding our heavy shortcomings so we can move through life with more grace and openness. On this last day, we dig deep, really exploring what we will do should we be blessed with another year. Because, who knows? I don’t know for sure, do you? But if this next year was optional, what are you willing to invest to make it permanent? What would you do to leave your mark? One’s perspective changes when there are no guarantees.