According to the Jewish calendar, this week marks humanity’s 5780th year on this planet. Mind-boggling isn’t it? We all know 2019 years ago was not the beginning of the world, so when was it? In the Jewish calendar, the beginning is actually in the Old Testament, “Let there be Light…” that event is understood in Judaism to have happened 5780 years ago this week. Wow! Every Rosh Hashana (literal translation, head of the year) Jews are commanded by tradition to observe not just the changing of the calendar to a new year, but literally to create a new you. This self-inquiry and apology week is very much like doing a 10-day cleanse of your soul.
Connecting to our higher power, we use these 10 days, referred to as the Days of Awe, and they are truly awesome, to deeply introspect, admit and acknowledge what we have done wrong, and reach out to anyone we know we have mistreated and then ask for forgiveness. This is the toughest 10 days of the year, admitting that you messed up is never easy, but it is very worth it. The 10 day period ends with a 25 hour fast and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Apology time is primarily between us and God, looking inward to clearly see and own our shortcomings and trying to find a way to be better in the future. This is along the lines of new year’s resolutions, but the promise you are making to do better is to you, and God.
These resolutions are not just about losing a few pounds or eating more veggies or hitting the gym (which are all great!), this is the serious stuff you don’t want to admit to yourself or anyone. It’s time to bring that dirty self to the surface and let your apology and actions cleanse your soul. Through these 10 days of deep soul cleansing, anyone whom you know you have mistreated or hurt gets a sincere apology, including yourself, especially yourself.
We all spend so much time in self admonishment and disappointment, letting that nasty little voice in our head make us feel less than we are, less than the perfect expression of God that we came here to be. Well, you’re not, and I’m not. So apologize to yourself for thinking any less of you than that you are perfect (remember, made in God’s image?). Then take that perfect self that you are out into the world, plan to do your best, knowing you will fail, but do your best and keep trying anyway, because you are human and perfect. If you continue this practice, your best will get better and better!
That’s the perfection of it, gather experiences and try to do better. Each time you fail, you learn, you grow and you try again. In my personal spiritual practice, I do this type of self-inquiry every morning during silent meditation and every evening while journaling, a daily soul cleanse if you will. And when I find I have fallen short, which is most days, rather than be disappointed in myself (well… I try to make self-admonishment short) I reach out to anyone I think I hurt, try to right the wrong, and cleanse. Because of my daily mindfulness practices and eating clean, I am starting with a clean body and mind and heart and soul, going into the Days of Awe, like I’ve been training for this marathon all year, so it’s not so out of the ordinary for me (you can do this too!). This 10 days, however, is an especially powerful reminder and motivator. We have all made mistakes, we have treated people, including ourselves, especially ourselves, in a way we wish we hadn’t. We have all acted in a way we know better than to act. It’s ok, don’t beat up on yourself which is just adding harm or shame to your mistake, and not fixing anything. Recognize that you messed up, promise yourself you will try to do better next time, apologize, to yourself, to God and to anyone you have harmed. That’s all you can do, learn and grow, it’s what we are here on this beautiful planet to do. You don’t have to wait for a new year to be kind to yourself, and everyone you know. Try it! Gratitude and kindness in all things. And enjoy the new year!