For Jews who only visit a synagogue one or two days a year, how do we make the interface on meaningful? Rosh Hashanah has some great messages. Celebrating symbolic renewal on this “birthday of the world,” on both universal and personal levels – gives us a prescribed framework for expressing gratitude for what we have in our lives and a space to acknowledge the beauty and blessing that exists if we are willing to see it. Seeking forgiveness from our family, friends and neighbors and – more importantly – from ourselves for not living up to the expectations we so often set, is an important step toward living a more mindful life. There is great value in looking back at the year and at our accomplishments (and shortcomings) as if our lives depended on it. Can we use our Machzor (holy day prayer book) as a guidebook for spiritual connection? When we get together with family and friends, whether for a meal following services at shul or at home, we can use the themes of Rosh Hashanah as triggers for deep discussions on repentance or how to build a better, safer and more just society. The Unetaneh Tokef prayer is a good place to start. It sensitizes us to the fragility of life. “Who will die at their predestined time and who before their time, who by water and who by fire, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval and who by plague?” “Who will be impoverished and who will be enriched?” Or combine a debate about Rosh Hashanah’s ancient emphasis on “kingship” with a comparison to Hunger Games, or MineCraft, or Game of Thrones. Has the world gotten any better since that admittedly mythical time? Or do misogyny and sexism still loom large in our supposedly enlightened age? (At least we don’t have dragons.) Every year before the High Holy Days, the Jewish non- profit organization Reboot offers a tool called “10Q.” 10Q is a website (doyou10q.com) that presents us with ten questions that we answer online. Why ten questions? There is one question for each day of 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. After answering each question, we click “Send to Vault” and the site locks our answers away until the following year, when we receive an email inviting us to review what we wrote and to reflect on the year just passed. The questions are meant for private introspection. Here are some past years’ questions: Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?
Is there something that you wish you’d done differently this year?
What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you?
How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?
Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?
If we can open ourselves to spend time contemplating these questions, we will be much closer to connecting with the true spirit of the holy day. May we be blessed with open minds & hearts.