We’re in the middle the Jewish holidays, last week was Rosh Hashanah (beginning of the Jewish New Year) and this coming week is Yom Kippur. Traditionally most people who observe the holiday take time off from work to pray and reflect on their actions, to ask forgiveness for slights don to others (intentionally or unintentionally) and to forgive those who might have slighted us.
I’ve been lucky (workwise) in recent months and have dealt with multiple deadlines; so my first reaction after sundown the second day of Rosh Hashanah as I hurried back to my desk (yes I work from home) was thinking that I LOST two days I could have worked! And then I caught myself… I hadn’t lost anything, I reflected on who I was and who I was trying to be. The self-reflection helped me to learn WHY I did the work I do, it helped me to understand what my priorities are.
In addition to the peacefulness I feel after making earnest attempts to forgive others that I had been angered or hurt by, I also have gained valuable time in my life that isn’t wasted by tears and resentment. My reflection has forced me to face my own failings and has given me the encouragement to be better, kinder, and more productive. The time I spent in prayer and thought also made realize all the people in my life and all the things I have that I am so very grateful for.
I can’t promise to always think before I act or speak, and I can’t be sure I will always react kinder and fairer when something or someone “rubs me wrong”, but I know it is important to try. If one ten-day period (the Days of Awe) were enough to guarantee improvement, we wouldn’t need this yearly ritual. The ten day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time for self-reflection, repentance and renewal. The process of our atonement concludes with Yom Kippur which this year begins this Tuesday at sundown and goes through Wednesday at sundown.
There is irony in our New Year’s observance; Rosh Hashanah actually begins on the first day of the seventh month. There are three other New Year observances on the Jewish calendar but Rosh Hashanah is the most major and yet all that makes it most unique is the blowing of the shofar and preceding Yom Kippur so closely. The shofar, a ram’s horn, allows each listener to interpret the message they hear, a patterned series of blasts that seems to reach into our hearts and minds. This is a period of renewal, we figuratively wipe the slate clean.
I gave myself some extra time before resuming my work and when I did start again I felt less pressure and in a happier mood. And even though I was much closer to deadlines… I didn’t miss a single one.
It’s important to take a few steps back now and then, to take a look at ourselves, re-organize our priorities, be more accepting of others, and be thankful for what we have. It definitely makes for a nicer life.