Theodore Roosevelt once famously commented: “The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing!”
Change is all around us. Change is inside of us. Change is all there is. At a cellular level ,we are changing every single second. On a psychological level we are changing every single moment. Yet many of us fear change. Change makes us uneasy. It hassles us at every corner, poking at us, annoying us. We feel like change happens when we finally get used to something. We even hate change to the core at times.
But change helps us grow.
As the saying goes, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Change keeps us moving forward (hopefully). Change keeps us on our toes, rather than becoming complacent. Change gets us out of our comfort zones and opens up new doors for us. Change is good.
The overarching theme of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is “change:” to change from what we were before and to become new individuals. The motif behind it all is accountability. We are responsible for our actions. We do not live in a vacuum. What we do or say has an impact and a resonance in the world. Yom Kippur represents the potential for a human being to change and return: we are not eternally condemned to follow a certain habitual path; we do have the ability, if we so choose, to change our ways.
The Sages (Nedarim 39b) tell us that Teshuva (repentance), was created before the world was created. That is to say, the idea of repentance, of a person changing themselves and changing their course, is an integral part of creation.
We all know Rosh Hashanah to be the beginning of the New Year. But rather than thinking about it as the name for only two important days out of the calendar, Rosh Hashanah is really a concept that permeates every day of our lives.
G-d renews his work of creation each and every day of the year. Rosh Hashanah is the ground for the very promise of renewal. As human beings who are under a lot of stress, day in and day out, we need to know that external pressures need not define who we are. G-d gave us enough inner strength to overcome tension in our lives by promising us that no matter how disillusioned we might become, a better day is around the corner.
The word Shanah (year) also has the meaning of Shinuy (change). Thus, Rosh Hashanah is also the beginning of change in our lives, where we look to better ourselves for the coming year. This determination to change, then, serves as a catalyst for looking for opportunities for growth in every day of our lives. There is no renewal without change and there is no change without renewal.
Our Neshamah(soul) has at all times an inner and outer dimension. Our external environment provides us constant feedback. We judge whether information processed by our senses is for our benefit or not. But more importantly, these perceived benefits cannot stimulate growth unless they become internalized and serve as guide posts for continued expansion and renewal.
Accompanying our blessings that we say over wine during this season is the special blessing –Shehecheyanu. This blessing echoes the soul’s yearning for enlightenment. It says that we have to first appreciate how far we have come in envisioning what it means to be alive today. Then we moveonto Vekiamanu, to determine how we are to take the next constructive steps to “establish” a plan for a better life. Finally, Vehigianu, we have to reach a state of acceptance within ourselves when we realize that our past can serve as a healthy catalyst for betterment in the future.
No one ever said change is easy because …it isn’t! But knowing that there is a time each year to think about the changes we want to make and to commit to making them is the first step.
To thoseAnnual Rosh Hashanah synagogue attendees, welcome once again to your local Holy Synagogue. We would love to see you more often!
For you, change might encapsulate itself in a resolve to participate in services more often, maybe once a month – you know you will enjoy!
To those frequent synagogue attendees, it’s always great to see you.
Perhaps look around this year and make an extra effort to welcome the new/old guests to our community. Delve deeper into the understanding of our lives and the acts we perform.
The happiest days of our lives are the day we were born and the day we find out why!
The world is constantly changing. Technology has ensured that in order to keep pace, we need to adapt. Let’s put in that extra effort this year, focus on one positive aspect and make that change.
Let’s make this Rosh Hashanah the first day of the beginning of the rest of our lives.