Jew in the suburbs

High Holy Days: self-improvement and HASHEM’s Love



Hello Blog Readers,


I was so disappointed to miss Selichot services after Shabbos this week.  Simply put Selichot are special prayers for forgiveness as the month of Elul begins to close.  The time period of these services usually begins the Sunday very early morning hours before Rosh Hashanah.  These prayers are about committing to do better and be better in the upcoming year.  I know I have been talking about self improvement all month.  So, what sets the time period for selichot apart from the rest of the month of Elul?  I believe the answer lies in urgency.  Yes, it’s true we should use all of the days in the month of Elul to prepare for the High Holy Days but I believe that Selichot is a warning, a signal, a reminder that Rosh Hashanah.  is quickly approaching and Yom Kippur is not far behind it.  These prayers serve as yet another opportunity for forgiveness and personal growth. 


I was sitting in Shul, Synagogue Saturday morning, listening to the rabbi speak when I realized that  after midnight Selichot services would  begin.  My breath caught and I thought to myself, I have a problem. Depending on how you look at it these services are either very late into the night or very early in the morning.  This particular service was scheduled for 1 AM.  Of course, another service was scheduled later in the morning for those who would be sleeping through this service.  I knew I could not be at Shul at 1AM in the morning and that I had conflicts later in the morning making it impossible for me to make it to the second service.  I really didn’t want to miss this; after all, I have been writing about self improvement and digging deep in my own Teshuvah, repentance process.  What was I to do?  I asked a rabbi who understood there was no way for me to make it to either Selichot service.  He told me that I didn’t have to be there, I told him, I know that but I really want to be there.  I wanted to know what a person like me who knew she could not be at a service could do to make up for it.  The idea that I didn’t have to attend these services and I would still be all right should have made me feel a lot better, but it didn’t. I felt terrible I knew that this rabbi was right but I still chose to look up the subject in a very handy and user friendly book entitled Halichos Bas Yisrael   A Woman’s Guide to Jewish Observance Volume II published by Feldheim. 


All week I felt as if I did something terrible by not attending these services, then yesterday I was writing something on a different subject matter, I got frustrated because the word count wasn’t exactly as it should have been.  For a brief moment, I thought to myself, I failed, I can do nothing right but then, thank G-d, the knowledge that Hashem loves me and all human beings, and all the creatures He created, hit me once again, like a lightning bolt, at exactly the right time.  Preparation for the High Holy Days, self improvement, and personal growth are of extreme importance.  However, yesterday when I was writing and it wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, I lost sight of the fact that if I make a mistake, or a project I am working on doesn’t come out exactly they way I want it to, It doesn’t mean that I am a failure.  Yes, I missed the service last week and even though I was told that I was free from the obligation, I felt it was a mistake but I am trying, I am working on my Teshuvah process and Hashem knows it.  Hashem wants us to come close to Him, we should never forget the reason He wants us to come close to Him is because He loves us.

He knows that we can do better and wants us to have faith that we can. He is aware we are imperfect and loves us despite our imperfections.

May the New Year bring you all blessing upon blessing!

Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur: The Call to Self-Improvement



Hello Blog Readers,


We are now in the Hebrew month of Elul, which means that I and many others are gearing up for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance.  Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the month of Tishrei which is next month and Yom Kippur is 10 days later, on the tenth of Tishrei.  Some of you may be thinking to yourselves, Rosh Hashanah is one holiday and Yom Kippur is another holiday, both are relatively short, so why, would one need a whole month to prepare?  In short Rosh Hashanah is about a new year, and a new year is a new beginning with new opportunities. Yom Kipper, again in short, is about making repentance for those things one did not do to the best of their ability, or didn’t do at all the year before.  It is about repenting for the mistakes made the previous year.  Any accomplishment a person achieves is made because they went through a process. 


Preparation for a New Year and Repentance is the same as preparation in order to achieve any goal.   One needs to go through a process to achieve the goal.  Elul gives people the opportunity to prepare for both Repentance and a fresh start.


Elul is a special time for self improvement.  The month of Elul can seem daunting to anyone; there are countless classes, books, and articles on the subject.  If you are looking for these things during this time of year, they can be found everywhere.  As human beings, we can’t read every single book, or attend every single class as we can only be in one place at one time.  However, we as human beings can and are expected to do our best.  Although, the call for self improvement may seem the most frightening of all goals because it involves, we humans looking deep into ourselves, the goal is worth having and worth achieving.  If you speak to someone who has just accomplished a goal, such as graduating from school, you will notice that the person is not just happy and satisfied because the school is at an end, the person is happy and satisfied because of the work they did in order to achieve that graduation.  The work is the process.  It is the process that makes a person feel that they have done something important.  If a person wouldn’t graduate without a lot of preparation, why would a person go into Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur without preparation?


The call to self improvement may be loud   and difficult, but in my opinion, answering the call is one of the deepest expressions of love for yourself, for those around you and for G-d.  Many people would make the excuse that they are too busy and don’t have enough time for self improvement. The month of Elul gives a person that time.  A time to evaluate yourself and decide what it is you really want for yourself out of life.  Finding this out allows you to know yourself better. Personally, when I feel I know myself better, I feel closer to G-d.  In my opinion, this process improves my relationship with G-d and from my personal experience; self improvement makes me a happier person.


  What do you want out of life? What areas of life would you like to improve? What parts of yourself would you like to change for the better? What did you do last year that you want to do better this year? What are your goals for your new opportunity for a new beginning? I ask that you examine the answers to these questions as  I am examining  them.  Once you have an idea ask G-d for what it is you want. If you don’t know ask that G-d help you figure it out. Remember G-d is Compassionate. HE listens to prayer, and the month of Elul is a special time for prayer.  


 May all of you have a meaningful Elul and a beautiful and happy New Year!