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Reflections in Preparation for the

High Holy Days

 

Individually and as a community, Jews traditionally prepare for the High Holy Days during the Hebrew month of Elul, which this year falls from August 28 through September 25 on the secular calendar.

As we walk together through the Hebrew month of Elul, you will find questions and resources on a variety of topics to help you reflect on last year and look forward to the one ahead, a process known as T’shuvah, or “turning.”   

L'shanah Tovah : Friday September 23 (27 Elul)

T'shuvah Project

We deeply appreciate the National Center for Learning and Leadership, which published T’shuvah: A Haggadah for the High Holy Days, from which many of these reflections have been adapted.

Many thanks as well to all who’ve visited this T’shuvah Project web page. We hope that the project has facilitated your process of reflection and looking forward.         

We have walked together through the month of Elul.  Now we arrive at the gates of repentance, through which we will enter a new year. May it be filled with sweetness and peace for us all. L’shanah tovah!

Feedback

What part of this T’shuvah Project worked well for you?  What would you suggest for the future?  What are you most likely to take from these reflections as you enter the new year?

Share your feedback with Rabbi George at rabbig@cstsr.org.

Legacy : Wednesday September 21 (25 Elul)

Reflection

If the past year is to be your last, what are your life’s most important accomplishments?  What are your greatest regrets?  How will your loved ones remember you?  Your community?

Looking Ahead

Being as serious and/or lighthearted as you’d like: how might you summarize your life in just six words

(See examples at www.sixwordmemoir.com .)

Resources

Writing an Ethical Will

 Justice : Wednesday September 21 (25 Elul)

Reflection

Beyond your family, friends, and community, how did you affect the world in the past year?  When and how did you use your political and economic power to correct the injustices under which many people suffer?  To what injustices did you fail to respond?

Looking Ahead

To what specific action can you commit to help bring justice in the coming year?

Resources

Congregation Shomrei Torah - Social Action

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Volunteer Center Sonoma County

Work  : Wednesday September 14 (18 Elul)

Reflection

What aspects of your work were the most satisfying in the last year?  What aspects were the most frustrating?   How did your life at work affect your home life…and vice versa?

How did you express your appreciation to those who supported you this year?  What did you do (or not do) that hurt your co-workers or employees?  How can you rectify that?

Looking Ahead

What is a way that you could create positive change in your work environment for the coming year?

Resources

"Proof Positive: 8 Ways to Create Positive Work Relationships"

Tribe : Wednesday September 14 (18 Elul)

Reflection

How did you relate to the Jewish community this year?  What was the most positive experience you had inside the Jewish community?  The most negative?  How might you contribute to the Jewish community in a way that you find meaningful?

Looking Ahead

What specific actions can we take – individually and collectively – to help the Jewish community measure up to the challenge to be a “light among the nations?”

Resources

Congregation Shomrei Torah

Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County

Union for Reform Judaism

Health : Wednesday September 7 (11 Elul)

Reflection

Think about the actions you’ve taken in the past year regarding eating; resting; coping with stress; medical care; and exercising.  In which of these areas are you pleased with the way you’ve treated your body? In what ways can you plan to benefit your health in the coming year?

Looking Ahead

What is the biggest challenge you face to taking care of your body?  How can you overcome it?

Resources

"Fitness and Exercise"

"Nutrition Basics"

Family and  Friends : Wednesday September 7 (11 Elul)

Reflections

How did you relate to those close to you during the past year?  For each person in your circle – mother, father, spouse/partner, child, close friend – ask yourself:  How did I express my appreciation for him or her?

How did I hurt him or her?

Then consider: From whom and for what do you need to ask forgiveness? How can you do that?

Looking Ahead

What were the biggest sources of conflict with family and friends in the past year? What will you do in the coming year to prevent further conflicts?

Resources

"Asking Forgiveness: A Difficult Conversation"

"Asking for Forgiveness Before Yom Kippur"

Time : Wednesday August 31 (4 Elul)

Reflection

How did you use your time in the past year?  Review your calendar and take a close look at how you spent your time.  Imagine the time spent with people during the past as a large pie chart: how much time went to family, friends, work, yourself, and your community?

Looking Ahead

What is the biggest obstacle you face in effectively allocating your time?   Thinking about the coming year: on what do you want to spend less time?  On what do you intend to spend more time?

Resources

"Psych Basics: Time Management"

Money : Wednesday August 31 (4 Elul)

Reflection

How well has your relationship to money worked in the past year?  Do you feel in charge of your finances…or have they controlled you?  If you can, pull out your receipts and credit card bills and take a close look at how you spent your money during the past year: have you used your financial resources effectively to meet your needs and to achieve your goals?

Looking Ahead

As you look toward the coming year, are there ways you want to change how you use your finances?  On what might you spend more?  On what will you spend less? 

Resources

"Mapping Your Future: Manage Your Money"

T’shuvah: Getting started

Preparation for the High Holy Days, during the Hebrew month of Elul, involves a practice known as T’shuvah. The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL) describes this process in T’shuvah: A Haggadah for the High Holy Days:

“We review our life stories at this time of year as part of a much larger process the rabbis refer to as T’shuvah.  T’shuvah is the spiritual practice of redirecting our attitudes and actions.  The T’shuvah process begins with questions of self-reflection: How have I acted in the past year?  Whom have I hurt?  How have I hurt myself?  T’shuvah calls us to see how our personal choices are responsible for the lives we have led.  T’shuvah reminds us that we do have power to make subtle, and often profound, adjustments to ourselves, our families, and our communities.  Ultimately, T’shuvah leads to the question: What will be the responsibilities, the mitzvot, that I commit myself to the in the coming year?”

There are numerous ways to approach T’shuvah, and countless things we can focus on.   In the coming weeks, which fall during Elul, we will be posting prompts for reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new one, regarding various aspects of our lives.  Many of the ideas are drawn from CLAL’s publication.

Mon, October 3 2022 8 Tishrei 5783