Image: An iPhone showing a calendar app with many appointments. (pexels/pixabay)
I’m writing this exactly one week from the beginning of Rosh HaShanah. Perhaps you just realized that the Days of Awe are upon us. Perhaps you intended to do some preparations for the last month. Or perhaps, like me, sometimes you get disorganized and time slips away.
Here’s the question: How can I be ready for the Jewish New Year when the past three weeks have disappeared and there is only a week left?
Some ways to prepare, with just a week ahead:
- Take stock of the situation. One traditional way to do it is to go through the 10 Commandments, slowly and thoughtfully. Another is to read the confession we read on Yom Kippur. Are there any of these commandments that you need to work on? Any of them stir discomfort? If you have an emotional reaction, that’s a flag: stay with it, ask yourself why this particular commandment is uncomfortable.
- For some less conventional approaches, read Three Ways to Take an Inventory of the Soul. This article shows how we can use our checkbooks, our appointment books, or our contacts list to prepare for the Days of Awe.
- For a more personal approach, have a chat with someone who knows you well. This approach requires that you come with an open heart, prepared to suspend defensive reactions. Some things you might ask:
- What have I mentioned wanting to change about myself?
- What have I complained about the most in the past year?
- Is there anywhere you notice my words and my deeds not matching?
- Then LISTEN. Do not argue, do not explain. Simply take it all in.
- Tamara Cohen offers five more approaches to preparation in How to Prepare Spiritually for the High Holy Days.
However we choose to prepare, we will likely finish with a list of things we wish we hadn’t done, or we wish we had done differently. This is the point at which we need to think about how to make teshuvah. Teshuvah is the Jewish process of finding a better path upon which to move forward. Whether the “sin” is against another person, or against God, or against ourselves, teshuvah offers a process of dealing with it and moving forward.
Keep in mind that teshuvah is not about beating ourselves up. Shame-filled recrimination doesn’t do anyone any good. If we follow the steps in The Jewish Cure for Guilt then by the end of Yom Kippur, we’ll be well on our way to some significant changes. We will be able to relax under the sukkah, enjoying Sukkot and knowing we have done our best.
Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short and the work is much, and the workers are lazy and the reward is great, and the Master of the house is pressing. He used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. If you have learned much Torah, your reward will be much; and the Master of your work is trustworthy to pay you the wage for your activity. And know, the giving of reward to the righteous is in the future to come. – Pirkei Avot 2:15-16