We all make resolutions. Every year, we hope to stay motivated and on track to lose weight, be more organized, be more frugal, more adventurous – whatever floats your boat. But we all do it. And like most people, I make a list of New Year’s resolutions in December (or if I’m really having one of those years, I procrastinate until January or March). However, this time of year, in the Jewish month of Elul, I get a second chance. I can mindfully engage in making resolutions, after all, I have tons of time while praying for my eternal soul.
Elul is the Hebrew month that leads up to the Jewish new year, and it is the month in which the Jewish people are supposed to be involved in a process of making an accounting of the soul. It’s called “Cheshbon Hanefesh.” Literally translated to a list of the soul. It is a massive spiritual preparation for the new year. It is a time to really look deep inside ourselves and begin the process of repentance, in Hebrew called “teshuvah.” Normally translated as repentance, the word “Teshuva” literally means “turning.” We are all seeking to turn toward wholeness in all the relationships in our lives, with G-d, other people, and with our true selves.
This year, the month of Elul occurs from September 4 – October 2), and unlike in December, when I make my resolutions now, they aren’t about being healthier, richer, thinner, and happier (not that I would mind any of those things!). Instead, I am making resolutions about how I will relate to my family, friends and community and how I will find my place in the world. I stand in Temple and contemplate my spiritual wellbeing. And that’s a good thing.
One of the most amazing things about the process of “cheshbon ha-nefesh” is that it’s something that everyone can do, no matter what faith, tradition or lack thereof they are. (I can’t think of any religion or culture that wouldn’t encourage individuals to look deep within and contemplate to be better people in the coming year.) I have always believed that it’s all about being a good person. So even if you are not Jewish, you can still find meaning in the process of reflection which most Jews engage in at this time of year.
My New Year’s wish for all of you is simple. I hope that as the Jewish New Year approaches, all of us, no matter what religion we practice, will give ourselves the gift of taking time for the accounting of our souls. I hope we can recognize and be grateful for generous tendencies, and innate goodness. I hope we can be honest with ourselves about those qualities that we need to work on, and that we seek to do so in the year ahead.
Have you made any resolutions for the year ahead? Remember, this is a second chance. Feel free to share any resolutions with us, we love comments and feedback.
To all who will be celebrating, I wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year.
Stay motivated and caffeinated!😉☕