Self-reflection and casting away
Welcome to the Days of Awe. These are the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – between the Jewish new year and the day of atonement – when we make time to self-reflect. This is the period of time when we have the chance to look back on our past year and make things right if we need to; while also looking ahead to the coming one to set some goals and resolutions for ourselves.
During this time, we are given the opportunity to ask some big, important, soul-searching questions, including:
What did we do right last year?
What do we wish we had done better last year?
How can we fix what we did wrong?
What do we want to do differently in the coming year?
The Hebrew phrase is “cheshbon hanefesh,” which means “an accounting of the soul.” And if we take it seriously, it can be cleansing and freeing. In fact, there is a beautiful tradition called “tashlich” during which we go to a body of running water and “cast off our sins” by tossing bread crumbs or pebbles into the water.
This past year has been unimaginable for so many of us. Wouldn’t it be nice to cast it away -or at least cast away some major pieces of it? If I am being honest with myself, I can afford to do some of my own casting-off. Six months ago, I dislocated my shoulder while snowboarding and needed surgery to repair it. The good news is I’m well on my way to a full recovery, but the bad news is I am harboring an unconscious fear that I am going to reinjure myself. I know that means I’m going to be timid when I return to the slopes and it’s that timidity that could actually lead me to hurt myself. So, I need to let go of the fear.
I propose using these days of awe to do some self-reflection, to cast away the elements from last year that we want to be rid of, and to pledge to do better for the coming year. If we all work toward a better world, we might just make it a reality.