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the annual check-up

08/25/2022 09:11:13 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

I’d like to assume that everyone who has access to good medical care will arrange for an annual physical. Those who need specialists most likely visit them with some degree of frequency. We have the oil changed in our automobiles regularly to keep it running safely and optimally. Many homeowners opt for a policy with an HVAC company, to have the filters changed and the system cleaned and serviced twice per year. Unless there is something more complex, there is generally little or no preparation for any of the above. We just do it.

So many of us have adopted the “just do it” attitude when it comes to the High Holy Days. We have to sit through it, so “just do it”. Without a clear sense of why we are there, we do ourselves a great disservice by being disconnected, without an opportunity to recognize what an important opportunity has been squandered. Rosh Hashanah essentially celebrates the birthday of the world, but there are far deeper themes at play here. Deep, existential questions lie waiting for us to ponder them, yet so many do not. Is the task too immense? Is the Hebrew a barrier? Are the prayers in the Machzor too esoteric?

Perhaps deep down we already knew these millennia ago, and created a format to give everyone time to reflect. Just as so many non-Jewish colleagues and friends have marveled at the brilliance of shiva, we have one month prior to Rosh Hashanah to prepare ourselves spiritually. It is a metaphysical check-up to gauge how we are doing. The month of Elul, the final month of the Jewish calendar, begins at the conclusion of Shabbat this week, and with it, the stark reminder that the time has arrived for our annual review. The Shofar will be sounded every day except Shabbat, as our alarm clock to remind us to examine our lives.

No one is perfect, as that is a condition of humanity. Therefore, we can always be a better version of ourselves. The month of Elul provides us with that most precious of commodities: time. Time to search our deeds, recognize what we have done well and explore ways to do it even better, and identify where we have fallen short and how we might do better. If only we would have the wisdom to invest the time in ourselves, because we are worth it.

My colleague, Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, created a wonderful guide to help us prepare for the High Holy Days, a veritable workbook to be utilized every day. It is difficult to just start a period of introspection if one does not know how. This workbook provides thoughtful guidance, a how-to that I know you will find helpful, to come into Rosh Hashanah fully prepared. The link is below, and I hope that you will take advantage of time and spend some on yourself. You are worth it.


Wed, February 28 2024 19 Adar I 5784