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eJudaism: How's Your Balance? (High Holy Days)

09/05/2021 07:00:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Haven’t we had quite enough of introspection and looking deeply into our souls over the last 18 months? And now the High Holy Days are here? Truth is, Judaism never gets tired of Cheshbon HaNefesh, the accounting of the soul that we’re supposed to be doing right now. But even if you’re not big on spiritual spreadsheets, it’s good stuff . . . unless you’ve got reflection-fatigue from a year and a half of continually assessing your life. And while it’s true that some of us also used the time to look deeply into the souls of some other people, that is technically off-label for Cheshbon HaNefesh.

Do we have to do more? The Talmud – which likes to answer questions with questions – often begins by asking: What would God do? In Avodah Zarah, we get a WWGD answer that seems particularly relevant this year. For three hours each day, “God sits and judges the entire world. Once God sees that the world has rendered itself liable to destruction, God arises from the throne of judgment and sits on the throne of mercy, and the world is not destroyed.”

Many of us, emulating God, also begin each day with three hours of judging the entire world. Sitting in judgment, it’s easy to render harsh and well-deserved decrees not just for others but for ourselves, as well. Far more difficult is getting up off the throne of judgment and coming to rest in a place of mercy. Mercy for ourselves, mercy for others – whichever one is more difficult for you right now is probably where you should throw that extra measure of mercy you’ve been keeping in your back pocket.

In addition to the High Holy Day prayers that ask for a little slack in the divine rope, this is a good year to remember to be gentle with ourselves. It’s been a very difficult period for many of us, in many ways, and it’s not over yet. If we can be kind to ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to be kind to those around us which will ultimately help us stay connected to our communities, and we already know that communities are what will get us through to whatever is next.

The Hebrew root of Cheshbon (Chet-Shin-Bet) means to think. So – for sure – give yourself time to think over these Holy Days, but rather than trying to balance the books, maybe just use your spiritual spreadsheet to keep track of how the balance shifts from day to day. And in the days ahead be present with us – inside, outside, on Zoom, or in whatever way connects you to our communal prayers for a better year ahead.

Shana tova u'metukah - wishing you health and happiness and a sweet New Year!

Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784