Rosh Hashanah seems to have sneaked in through the back door whilst the Hofesh Hagadol was still wrapping up! It delivers the pressing, daunting challenge of Teshuva, coupled with our formulation of New Year resolutions. ‘Tis the Divinely ordained season for introspection and mindful selection of our principles, strategies, and commitments for the coming year.
With so much wisdom available at the click of a button, countless shiurim to choose from, tomes of Rabbinical scholarly insights to flick through, self-help books, TED Talks, and podcasts to tune into, how do we begin to assemble our personal approach to the New Year? To maximize the project which is “My Jewish Lifetime” over the coming year.
Ping………another pre Rosh Hashanah blog has just arrived in my Inbox – “Five Golden Rules for Successful Goal Setting”!
During the next two weeks, I need to reaffirm my Covenant and appreciation to God, to repent the errors of my ways, and to pledge to delete the negative stuff. This is an immeasurable challenge in itself. Each year as I confront the confession of our generic list of sins (Vidui), I am aghast to discover that, yet again, there is hardly a single one of which I am not guilty! Thank goodness our prayers include King David’s words in Psalm 19.13: “But who can be aware of every mistake? So please forgive any unknown wrong.”
What is within my control is to submit my New Year Mission plan. No proposal doc or PowerPoint necessary. But I do need to present it verbally to the Creator of the Universe, by around 6.00pm on Wednesday 19th September, just before the Heavenly Gates close at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
The question is, which approach should I chose in order to assemble my plan.
Is it all about the “WHY?”
Fashionable guru Simon Sinek tells us:
“Everyone has a WHY. Your WHY is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.
Knowing your WHY gives you a filter to make choices, at work and at home, that will help you find greater fulfillment in all that you do. “
But wait a minute, it could also be about the “HOW?”
Richard Branson advises:
“If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.”
Then there is the goal setting.
Maneuvering from A to B. Compiling that annual to-do list. Programming our WAZE destination and navigation system. But what is the virtue of pre-establishing concrete goals? Life continues to show me that the joy is in the journey itself.
If you are utterly focused on your chosen destination and expected time of arrival, you could risk missing the view, and some of the wonderful people you’ll meet on the way. And what about your need for flexibility? You may have to reroute, or to make a detour, or take a break on the hard shoulder in order to smell the roses and to feel the sunshine on your face. Or just for a hug!
I need the spontaneity to be able to notice those opportunities that can appear on the horizon when you least expect them. If I fail to notice or respond, I miss the point. If Moses hadn’t stopped to notice the burning bush? If Ben Gurion hadn’t taken timeout to understand the potential of our desert to bloom? If Alexander Fleming hadn’t observed the mold growing on his bread, where might we be today?
One of my favorite fridge magnets is calling to me:
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
But surely you should also to allow yourself to be shaped by outside forces, the demands of your responsibilities, the needs of those you love, and the “facts on the ground.”
The coaster I use for my coffee is telling me:
“The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness.”
Now that I do wholeheartedly agree with!
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. So maybe I should just focus on trying to ensure that the forthcoming year is simply as sweet as is possible, and not worry about becoming an Rosh Hashanah Teshuva self-growth junky?
But still, I need my strategy. So where do I start?
The late and wonderful Rebbetzen Esther Jungreis defined “Teshuva” as having a double meaning. As she explained in a pre Rosh Hashanah lecture 2013:
“Suddenly its Rosh Hashanah. The One who created you is looking for you.
Do you know what God says? He is calling to you: “Where are you?
What an amazing question. Doesn’t God know where you are? …
Of course he knows where you are, but you don’t know.
How did you get so lost?
Where are you? It’s Rosh Hashanah. Come home!”
I believe that this “home” has at least a threefold meaning.
It is the spiritual place where I need to be; the blueprint for which is enshrined in our Torah.
It is the optimum, unique blend of attributes to which my character should aspire.
And it is the physical space in which I am meant to be living.
First night Selichot was yet another 4D, HD, technicolor experience and celebration of my physical Home.
Moonlit Yerushalyim. All kinds of Jewish folk talking as they walked the streets with their Selichot books in their hands, on their way to their choice of musical service. Earnestly on their way to launch their personal and communal Teshuva journey. (With thanks to IsraelB for giving us information about the choicest of Selichot options.) The call of Shofars resounding through the night air. The melodies of prayers sung in heartfelt unison by the myriad assemblies infusing the night.
My physical “Home” is Yerushalyim. Hundreds of thousands of my extended family members going through the Teshuva process together; our shared destiny as one People inseparable from our individual quests. Living within our collective canopy; spiritual and practical and municipal. And the additional opportunity for us to cooperatively revitalize our common mission via the civic election which is only one month away.
Of all the soundbites that I have read as I mull the ideal of our communal approach to Yerushalyim 5779, one that is resonating comes from, of all people, Indira Gandhi:
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.”
Harmony and synergy within our family, our City, our nation, and even with our neighbors. And an open hand and open arms ready to welcome each and every Jewish person who decides that Israel is “where” they need to be in the coming year.
I may have my work cut out deciding upon my what, why, and how, but at least I am established here at Home.
May your home light up with joy. Wherever you are. Happy Rosh Hashanah!
Madelaine Black is a Creative and Marketing Consultant, copywriter, and coach.
She serves as a Board Director of Tzohar.