I was recently asked to speak to the members of a Retirement Residence about the Jewish New Year. I began by asking them to think back over their long lives and imagine the most eventful New Year they had ever spent. I asked them to try to recall what they were wearing, who they were with, if they were at a party or a dance and of the fun they were having. Had they had a bit too much to drink? How had they felt the next morning?
After a few minutes of considering my words, I told them that the Jewish New Year is the opposite of those memories. This time of year is meant as a review; an opportunity to reflect, to repair and to return. We are asked to reflect on the year just past and question whether we did everything in our power to live up to our potential, to be honest and kind to others, if we had nurtured our physical and mental health and showed love and patience in our relationships. If we found areas in our relationships that needed work, had we made the effort to acknowledge them, ask for forgiveness and try to rectify the hurt we had caused? And finally, had we prepared ourselves spiritually to "return" to the path that would allow our humanity to flourish?
Every person takes stock at some point in their life, often though it is at the end and with regret. Perhaps knowing how fickle most people are, the Jewish people are required to do this reckoning each year and to enter into a new year with a clean slate and with a hopeful heart.
It is an opportunity to meditate on the kind of person one hopes to be, as a role model, as a mentor, as a parent or as a friend. It offers the message that it is never too late to change for the better.
Whether one is Jewish or not, this is a custom that can be transformative for anyone. I invite you to adopt it. Let me know how you get on.
Shana Tova U'Metukah (a Sweet New year).