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How We Prepare

The Prime Minister’s apologies made international headlines. Meanwhile, as the High Holy Days approach we must ask ourselves: What forgiveness do I seek?

Millions of students in 150 countries strike for change in global climate controls. Meanwhile, deep into the month of Ellul, we must ask ourselves: What hurtful or harmful behaviours in my own life can I change? What acts of teshuvah – turning and returning – can set things right? What changes – small or large – must I make today to set a path to the future I seek?

The U.S. President’s actions are being judged and called to account. The trial each of us faces over Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is a private one. We gather in great numbers to do a very private thing: to judge ourselves in the presence of God. How will we prosecute and defend our actions and inactions?

Critical elections here and in Israel are now taking shape.  Meanwhile, over the coming Holy Days we ask: Which acts of service and responsibility must I now carry? What coalitions and relationships must I nurture?

I’m not suggesting we turn off the newsfeed, but I am calling attention to the equally urgent work at hand:  Cheshbon HaNefesh, the accounting of the soul.  It’s the quiet, internal work that only we can do.  It’s the private tally that only we can take.

Here are five questions you might ask yourself in preparation for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

  1. Am I living the life I want? What changes or shifts might open a path to the life of meaning and purpose I seek?
  2. Do I express gratitude? Do I thank the people who enrich my life? Do I even acknowledge their contributions? Do I thank God for the many blessings that are mine?
  3. Whom shall I forgive? While seeking forgiveness from others, we are also called upon to grant forgiveness. Are there people – living or dead – whom I should forgive?  What anger or resentment might soften for me if I do? What disappointments would lighten?
  4. Am I taking good care of myself? Am I pushing too hard? What price do I pay for it?
  5. Where is God in my life? What is my personal theology? What questions can I ask in pursuit of spiritual insight and growth?

If you found these questions to be helpful prompts, check out 10Q. I’ve never tried it myself, but some people make it part of their High Holy Day ritual, a tool to prepare for the new year. 10Q offers ten questions just before Rosh HaShanah and then stored in a vault. Your private answers “magically” appear in your inbox about a year later, so you can be reminded of your intentions and self-assess your Cheshbon HaNefesh, your personal accounting of the soul. You can sign up here,

This is the work of the hour.  This is the news of the day.  What headlines and fine print do you read in your Book of Life?

May these days of self-examination be rewarding.

And may we each be blessed with another year of this good life.


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