Beginnings: New Opportunities

Beginnings: New Opportunities

It was the evening before the first day of school, and I had a conversation with my 7th grade son, Ari. Together, we looked back at his last school year and thought about the changes he could make in his behavior so that this new year would be even better. A few minutes into the conversation, Ari said, "You know, I realize my trap of last year. Everyday I went to school hoping to behave perfectly. But, the first time I messed up, I immediately gave up. I didn't see it then, but I see it now. I kind of figured that - once I misbehaved - I may as well continue in that path."

I felt so happy for Ari that he uncovered this awareness, because armed with this, he empowers himself to create a plan that will help him circumvent his own pitfalls. Once he recognizes his patterns and misbehaviors, he could do whatever it takes to ensure that he avoids them.

Essentially, Ari uncovered the core message of the High Holiday season. The 'work' of Rosh Hashanah, and her partners Yom Kippur and Sukkot, is to take an honest look at the direction of our lives and see where it is we want to improve.

This self-analysis this doesn't only apply to our behaviors - which are relatively easy to self-assess, but also to our very relationships.

Relationships are the fabric of our lives. They are the infrastructure and lifeblood of a meaningful existence. Relationships are mutually-dependant and dynamic; each party within the relationship thrives on the energy of the other. Relationships can be very powerful, but...even the most intimate and deeply-rooted ones can fall into a routine and lose their vibrancy.  
The High-Holiday season is a time for refocusing on our core relationships, and recommitting ourselves to keeping them alive. On Rosh Hashanah, we focus specifically on our relationship with the Divine. We reflect on our dependence of G-d's love and care, and on G-d’s dependence on us to make this world a meaningful and G-dly place.
The High Holiday season opens with Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah we acknowledge our power to say, “Whatever was, was. However I approached my relationships in the past need not determine how I face the m in the future. If I allowed my relationships to fall into a rut, from this moment on, I can be a new person. I will not allow my past patterns and mistakes to determine the direction of my future. I have the power to declare this a new beginning!"
Of course, we can do that at any moment in our lives, but on Rosh Hashanah as we come together as a community, we draw strength from each other. We each think about our "point of actual" and measure it against our "point of potential". We take the time to think about who we are, and who we want to be. We resolve that, "We are going to get there! We are going to self-actualize!"
So Rosh Hashanah is a time for new beginnings, sweet new beginnings.
The practices and customs of Rosh Ha shanah serve as sensory reminders to the holiday's core message:
The Shofar's sound calls out to us, saying, “Don't lose this opportunity for a fresh start. Make this a new beginning; it's the first day of the rest of your life!”
The sweet taste of the apple and honey reminds us how life has the capacity to be a sweet experience, with positive relationships. Let us remember that we often have the capacity to create our own sweet realities; if we are so inclined, we can make it happen!
Tashlich is a special waterside prayer ceremony. With the tranquil backdrop of flowing water, we are reminded, that - just as water is invigorating, refreshing, and cleansing - we too have the power to rid ourselves of past negativities, and reshape the destiny of our lives.
May we all use this holiday as an opportunity to recognize that we can declare that our lives, from hereon, will be sweeter than ever before, and launch a year in which we live as our best possible selves.

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