Each year a Jewish person stands individually amongst the kehilla to petition our creator for favourable judgement. Our plea is for life. We reflect on our deeds and accomplishments of the past year. We make amends where necessary for any ill feeling that we have generated. We ask whether we have achieved to our potential. We check our middot to ensure that our character is as refined as it can possibly be. We resolve to try harder, to change what we can change for the better. Then we set out to prove it, as a matter of action, not just thought.
Whilst introspection in its true sense can be a scary proposition, I find that beyond the fear of the liturgy associated with Teshuva lies a reward within the opportunity itself. We live in a day and age where we expect a lot and where we rarely express appreciation and gratitude for what we do have. In particular our interpersonal relationships, when based on more “take” than “give” create a selfishness from which we have to escape and correct.
The word teshuva means to “return”, and is quite different in conceptual terms to the notion of “repentance”. We are returning to our ideal state – one that is based on appropriate conduct and motivation. No matter what level a person’s observance or stature may be, there is always room to regulate character, mindset, and willfullness to help others.
What is most amazing about the Yomim Noraiim is that it is our life itself that we put at stake. We revisit the limitation of mortality, and recognise that our tendency to take life for granted is a false and fragile pursuit. When we look around and remind ourselves that some of our family and friends who we shared last Rosh Hashana with are no longer with us, the reality of the years we are gifted becomes a truely valueable cheshbon.
We greet our mourners with the cry of “a long life”, but a closer look at Hebrew greeting shows that it “length of days” that we part as the traditional blessing. This is a subtle but important distinction. Whether or not we have long lives, we can all take each waking day and make it a “long” one. Long in terms of how much we can accomplish, in terms of how many mitzvot we perform, and how much contribution we make. If our day is full of meaning and purpose, then we can add our days together. However if we do not spend our day well, we will not be able to answer the bigger question – how did we apply our life? Put another way, we don’t get to choose how many days we live, but we do get to choose how we live our days.
Thank you to those readers who have read Jewgle, including my own blog posts over the past year. I’ve been asked why my blogging has not been as regular in recent times. Most of it relates to the pursuit of parnassah. Nonetheless, I will try to continue to regularly post my thoughts to this blog over the next year, and share what I hope are constructive thoughts about how to focus and build the Perth Jewish community so we can all work together to realise our collective potential.
I may still get to post some more lighthearted thoughts prior to Rosh Hashana, but bli neder, this is not a good time of year for making promises! In the event that I do not find my way back to Jewgle in the next week, I wish all the Jewgle blog team, and our readers (in particular the posters of comments) a ktiva vchatimah tovah. May we be inscribed for a good and productive year ahead.