As the High Holy Days approach, I’d like to offer you a few resources for beginning the spiritual work that this season in the Jewish calendar has to offer us. Rather than wait for Rosh Hashanah, I invite you to start your focus now. I know some of you are back from summer vacations, others may still be gone, and what better way to spend some time.
First, if you have a shofar, feel free to blow it every morning—to remind your soul to WAKE UP! If you don’t have one, you might try this.
Then, here are a few questions you might want to spend some time pondering:
Reflect on the questions found below. If your answer to any of them is “yes” or “no” then ask yourself the harder question, which “why.” And if it’s no, feel free to do so now. Remember to recognize the progress you HAVE made in the past year. Learn why you were, or were not, successful in making such profound changes in your life.
Did I care for my body by choosing the food I eat and exercising regularly?
Did I make regular appointments to visit the doctor and dentist?
Did I care for my body, soul and mind?
Did I take time to understand my emotions and feelings?
Did I read books or find teachers that stimulate my spiritual awareness?
Personal traits and Relationships…
Have I found myself to be fearful, inaccessible, self-punishing, addictive, rejecting, insensitive, depressed, controlling, confused, disorganized, lying, unable to let go or petty?
Have I been generous and loving enough to my family and friends? Have I taken the time to listen to them when they needed me? Are there relationships I need to repair? Are there relationships I need to let go of?
Repairing the world…
Have I been involved in helping the underdog, performing acts of tzedakah for those in need, voicing my concern in political or social matters to my federal, state and local representatives?
Judaism and the Jewish world…
Have I explored my relationship with God?
Have I sought to deepen my knowledge of Jewish history, texts, culture, ethics, theology, prayer or the Hebrew language?
Did I allow myself time out from my busy schedule to observe Shabbat on a weekly basis and the Jewish holidays?
Am I fulfilled in what I do: my work, my volunteering, my caregiving, my activities? In what areas am I fulfilled? In what areas am I not fulfilled? Did I treat my companions in these activities with the respect they deserve? How have I grown during this experience?
10 Questions for Elul
What our priorities are and who do we want to be?
- When do I feel that my life is most meaningful?
- Those who mean the most to me—have I ever told them how I feel?
- Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?
- If I could live my life over, would I change anything?
- What would bring me more happiness than anything in the world?
- What are my three most significant accomplishments since last Rosh Hashanah? What are my three biggest mistakes since last Rosh Hashanah?
- What project or goal, if left undone will I regret most next Rosh Hashanah?
- If I knew I would not fail, what project would I undertake to accomplish?
- If I could only give my children three pieces of advice, what would they be?
- What are my three major goals in life? What am I doing to achieve them? What practical steps can I take in the next twelve months toward these goals?
Finally, if you want to read a GREAT, eminently readable book to get you in the spirit, I recommend Alan Lew’s classic book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared.
There will be a quiz….