Happy New Year! Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year and the Day of Judgment, is coming up. And it’s kind of a funny day. No, being judged for the year is not so funny. But if you look at our customs for the day, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on! We have these huge festive meals on the Day of Judgment. Yes, we’re Jews and any excuse we can come up with, we eat. But it’s Judgment Day! What’s with the 5 course meals? And you would think on Judgment Day we’re going to have a real heart-to-heart conversation with our Creator about all the things we’ve done wrong and how we’re going to change this year. I dare you to go look for that in the prayer book. You won’t find it! It’s actually forbidden to talk about our sins on Rosh Hashana! What’s up with that? We’re trying to pull a fast one on the Almighty as if it never happened? And what’s with the shofar blast? It’s a cry? A coronation? What’s the connection to Rosh Hashana?
Rosh Hashana is commemorating creation. Actually, no Jewish holiday is just a “commemoration.” They are actually reenactments (most notably the Passover seder). Rosh Hashana is a reenactment of creation. Here’s a quick Jewish trivial fact for ya – according to tradition, what happened on Rosh Hashana? Creation of the world, right? Nope! Rosh Hashana is actually the 6th day of creation which is the day Man and Woman were created. Mankind was created on Rosh Hashana. If every Jewish holiday is a reenactment then it follows that we are annually recreating ourselves on this Day of Judgment. And it’s an opportunity we don’t want to miss!
Why the lavish meals? Why no mention of sins? Why the shofar? All these questions asked really boil down to one concept – how does a person truly change, or in context, to truly create. Do we change by focusing on the past and wallowing in the pain of our mistakes? Will that inspire us to become better people? The answer is… drum roll please… no. It’s not going to help. In fact, it’s going to prevent us from changing. So on Rosh Hashana, it’s a setup for success. There’s no mention of past errors.
So how does a person truly succeed in change? Don’t change your behaviors. You can’t. You’re going to be stuck in You. Rather, you have to change YOU first. Then you can change your behaviors. I heard a beautiful idea recently from a friend, Charlie Harary. He explained that people think the way to change is to start with your behaviors and eventually you will become a new person. But it’s the wrong order in the process! You have to change who you are, then your behaviors will follow! Here are some examples to demonstrate.
If I decide I want to be more patient with my children, I have to perceive myself as a patient person. Only then can I begin to structure my behaviors in a more patient way. Otherwise, if I still see myself as an impatient person trying to fake patience, it won’t work (just a hypothetical example…). If I decide to be more kind, I have to take on that quality as a part of my essence. Then I can begin to behave that way. Otherwise, I’ve got kind behaviors up against my unkind core. So how do I change my core and self perception?
First off, we have to stop beating our core up. Every time we smack ourselves for something wrong we’ve done, we’re in essence saying to ourselves, “You are such a bad person! You always do X, Y, & Z!” And we believe it. So on Rosh Hashana, the day of recreating ourselves, there’s no beating up on ourselves. Let the good vibes of the new me flow!
Secondly, when we accomplish something great we celebrate. It helps concretize the accomplishment. And what greater accomplishment is there in the world beyond changing one’s core? If we’re really tapping into our inner greatness and potential, there’s nothing worth celebrating more than that. Big festive meals are quite apropos on such an occasion.
Ultimately, we are confronted with an overwhelming question. Can a person truly change? Not just our behaviors but the true you, can you change? The answer is yes. But it requires two things. First, believe in yourself that you can (Henry Ford). Second, put every ounce of existence into this effort. And that’s what the cry of the shofar is about. It’s not a mournful cry, rather it’s a cry of passion and core strength. It’s the age old cry of our people for thousands of years striving to change and become the greatest Jewish man or woman they could be. It is our own cry for this wish. It is the cry of our patriachs, our matriarchs, our ancestry, all the way through to our great grandparents and into us. Only through the potent medium of emotional core strength that is ignited by the cry of the shofar can we reach our soul’s strength to truly change. Then, the blast becomes a coronation. It’s a coronation for a new reality. It’s the new way we see the world as the new me.
I would like to personally invite you to join me on Rosh Hashana at the CTN Rosh Hashana Experience as we discuss the idea of recreating ourselves along with many other beautiful High Holiday insights together on these upcoming beautiful Days of Awe! A happy beautiful new year of true change and creation for all!