These old calendars have become my diaries. For each tells the story of my life during that time. Who I was? Where I was growing and going? What mattered most to me? Reviewing these large bound book of days, especially as I fill out the one for this year, reminds me of preparation for the High Holidays.
We are currently in the month of Elul, less than three weeks until Rosh Hashanah. In Aramaic, the word Elul means search, in the imperative form. So what does it mean to search and what are we looking for?
Jewish tradition teaches that we search for the best in ourselves so that we can begin Rosh Hashanah with clean souls. This process seems daunting in the allotted time period.
We have to:
1. Allocate time during the month for personal reflection. Try and conduct Heshbon HaNefesh, a full accounting of our soul. Questions are later provided to help in this accounting.
2. During the High Holyday liturgy, we read aloud; “For sins between the individual and God, forgiveness is granted, but for forgiveness between one individual and another we actively seek their forgiveness. Approach those you have hurt in he past and seek their forgiveness. We approach them three times with our heart in our hands and if they still do not accept our sincere apology, the onus lies on them.
3. Share with others, how they have hurt us and allow them to ask for forgiveness. As a people pleaser, this is often most challenging to me. In order to help myself grow beyond trying to make everyone happy, this is one of the most important spiritual face-to-face action for me personally.
So how do we begin with Heshbon HaNefesh, accounting of our soul? We ask ourselves questions and write down the answers. We acknowledge the parts of our personality we do not like and face them. Metaphorically, we take down the suitcase of our lives and unpack it; keeping those pieces of our history that we wish to take with us in the next part of our journey and discarding those sections of our personalities and our past, which we no longer need.
I have written a set of ten questions to help us all focus on preparation to stand before our God on Rosh Hashanah eve:
• Do I value the wisdom and life experience of others? How? And who?
• What am I afraid of? How do those fears hold me back from pursuing my dreams?
• To what extend do I rationalize my mistakes?
• Do I give myself the same concern and attention to my spiritual health as I do my physical health?
• Do I ever compromise my values for the sake of monetary gain?
• How often do I put my own needs on hold in order to help others?
• What do I do to help my community, our nation and our people?
• Have I lost my sense of idealism?
• Do I gossip or share private information with others?
• How can I be a more giving, understanding person who feels a sense of responsibility for the world?
I hope that we take this list of questions and find time and space in the next three weeks to answer them and others. Are you on the right journey? Are you living authentically with humility? Challenge yourself to be honest. This is not a quiz that will be graded by another party; rather a spiritual inspection of who you are and is this person who you want to be.