A Brutally Honest Guide to Preparing for Rosh Hashana
by Reesa Stone
Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
- Oprah Winfrey
The Hebrew month of Elul is almost over and the month of Tishrei is upon us. Like all Hebrew months, the name Elul was taken during the Babylonian exile - more than 2500 years ago - and, according to Wikepedia, means harvest, which is appropriate because Elul falls during the autumn harvest period. Winter is coming (or at least whatever passes for winter here in the HolyLand).
Elul (àìåì) is also an acronym for the Hebrew àðé ìãåãé åãåãé ìé (ani l'dodi v'dodi li) - I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine, from King Solomon's Song of Songs. This alludes to the belief that during the month of Elul, G-d listens to our prayers ever more closely, He is more approachable and more forgiving; according to custom, prayers said during the month of Elul are twelve times more powerful than during the other eleven months of the year.
Elul is designated as the month of soul searching and of repentance, so that on the first day of Tishrei - Rosh HaShana - one is ready to begin anew, determined to improve in specific ways, resolved to be a better person and to become closer - not only to G-d - but to your friends and family, your colleagues, your neighbors, and society in general. It's custom to contact those you know you have hurt over the year and ask forgiveness.
This all sounds good on paper.
I try. Really I do. I know that, during the year, I have, more often than not, acted less than perfectly (by which I mean downright awful). I know that in some of the areas I've come up short, and sometimes, I know that I have hurt people and how. I recognize my weaknesses and I can confront my shortcomings.
But mainly, during Elul, I agonize over how much work there is to do before Rosh HaShana.
I think about polishing the silver. (hahahhahahahahaha - we'll use glass kiddush cups or - better - disposable)
I think about cleaning out the fridge/freezer. (hahahahahahaha - what is this, Pesach??)
I wonder how long lettuce stays fresh in the fridge. (long enough to make me feel guilty for not eating more salad) (hahahahahahahaha salad)
I calculate how many chickens I need to buy, including for the Shabbat before and after the holiday. (20 billion)
In between, I try to soul-search.
I receive dozens, even hundreds, of articles on 'How to make your Rosh HaShana more meaningful', or 'How to achieve the most out of the month of Elul', or even 'How to confront your sins and stop sinning'. I even read some of them. I say to myself "Right, young lady!! In order of importance, from least to most: This year, you are going to be more organized with your time so you won't be pressured and cranky and yell at your family for not washing their cereal bowls why do I have to do all the work; you are going to stop being so super-sensitive and take everything anyone says to you the wrong way, and MOST IMPORTANT!!!! You are going to stop being so snarky to people, AND I MEAN THAT!! Also. stop overcooking."
After I say all that to myself, myself talks back:
"I have been known to apologize to people to whom I've been snarky. The problem, however, is that I'm snarky in my head, and there's a chance the person about whom I'm thinking snarky thoughts doesn't know I'm thinking snarky thoughts (never mind the rolling eyes and pursed lips), and if I apologize they will know I'm snarky!! A dilemma. Also, some people deserve snarkiness.*
Also, I'm not oversensitive. I've got thick skin. It's just that everyone is mean.
And also, I'm hyper organized. I'm going to polish that silver right now. As soon as I watch 14 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
And then my mind goes back to chicken parts and shopping lists.
It turns out that I'm pretty darned good at being disorganized, cranky, super-sensitive, and snarky. However, I'm really not very good at soul-searching and repentence.
Sorry about that.
While I'm not going to promise that I'll never be snarky again, or get upset over someone being snarky to me, and I certainly am not going to promise to polish the silver, I can say I'm working on it. (not the silver polishing. Just forget I ever brought that up.)
Also, I'll try and eat more salad.
This is what I can also do:
I can wish all my family and friends, and all of Am Yisrael, a good and sweet New Year, filled with health and joy, with goodness and happiness, with prosperity and kindness, and with love and hugs and friendship.
*Very few people actually ever deserve snarkiness. Even that person you're thinking of right now.
Have something to add? We'd love to hear from you. Please comment below to share.
If this post raised a question in your mind that you would like to ask rabbis from multiple denominations, click here to enter your question. We will ask rabbis on our panel for answers and post them. You can also search our repository of over 700 questions and answers about Jewish values.
For more great Jewish content, please subscribe in the right hand column. Once you confirm your subscription, you'll get an email whenever new content is published to the Jewish Values Online blog.
Any comments below have been contributed by third parties through social media. Jewish Values Online does not moderate comments and assumes no responsibility for the opinions expressed therein. In case of abuse, click the grey arrow in the upper right corner of any comment to report it.