Happy New Year: Rosh Hashana 2011 (5772)

Having slept/sat/stood through 41 High Holiday Services, I’ve, fortunately, picked up a thing or two that have become profoundly useful in my life. This year, rather than just silently contemplate those things this year when we’re supposed to be praying silently, I thought I’d jot them down and share them. (I’m assuming G-d will forgive me for writing in services as long as it’s properly formatted. At least I’m transcribing it and then transfering it to my computer after the holiday). So – here are my top 5 favorite things learned over the years:

  1. Cheshbon Nefesh (technically means “accounting of the soul” – but also is like a “soul receipt” – which sounds like a good band name).  This is the concept of looking back at the prior year to do the equivalent of your personal and spiritual review.  Did you achieve your objectives set the prior year?  Where might you need some work?  Where did things exceed objectives?
  2. Speaking of objectives: a concept called This Year’s Focus has been a way for me, each year since I was 18, to have a singular objective and to keep things simple and compelling.  This year, well, actually, it’s been my journey for several years, is “being present“.  But not just in mind or even in body.  I learned that both the Hebrew and Chinese words for “attention” or being present have to do with the heart (Sim Lev is the Hebrew for “attention”).  This means more readily removing distractions like cell phones, computers and multi-tasking at key moments with my family, and other communities with which I want to be present.  Previous years’ foci have included:
    • Forgiving myself/cutting myself some slack
    • Not judging others
    • picking my head up out of the sand
    • etc…
  3. Tabula Rasa – I love this idea of having a clean slate each year.  Of course, you have to work for that by asking for and/or granting forgiveness.  For those wracked by guilt, this is like doing a 10 day cleansing without the green beverages!  And – what a cool thing to do for/with kids: making space for and teaching saying sorry and forgiveness.  Imgaine if our leaders did this exercise!
  4. A mini-death: on Yom Kippur, you’re supposed to fast as well as not wear anything that was once alive (ie – leather shoes).  You are supposed to also wear white (even after labor day).  This is to signify  burial shroud.  Think about this concept – dying in order to experience rebirth & a clean slate.  Intense…
  5. A Wake Up Call – literally.  Remember the scene in Harry Potter when he selects his personal wand (or it finds him) at the want shop?  I had the same experience when, at age 12, my parents let me loose in a shofar shop on Ben Yehuda in Jerusalem.  After trying every one in the shop, I left with the shofar whose sound and shape spoke most deeply to me.  Since my 2nd year of college, I have had the honor, privilege, and responsibility of blowing shofar every year for my community.  The tradition is rich in terms of the meaning of the shofar.  For me, blowing the shofar comes down to a way to channel my soul through the horn to wake everyone up down to their kishkes and to break down the proverbial walls blocking us in our lives.

L’Shanah Tova!

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One response to “Happy New Year: Rosh Hashana 2011 (5772)

  1. Beautiful! L’Shanah Tova!

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