Time to Reboot. Refresh. Repent. It’s the Jewish New Year: Rosh Hashanah
For Jews all over the world, today at sundown begins a new year, a time to cleanse our psyches of negativity and start anew. As our mothers used to say, the past is past. We can’t go back. But we can go forward and go full speed ahead.
Rosh Hashanah is a two-day holiday that kicks off the Jewish High Holy Days. It focuses on what’s important—spending time with family and friends and maybe going to temple or synagogue to pray. We are taught in Judaism that God judges us for the year and writes his judgment in the Book of Life. Here are some ways to earn a good rating in the Book of Life and start the year off on the right foot.
And while both of us are Jewish, as are many readers, many aren’t, so we are sharing this to inform you of this major milestone in our annual calendar, as well as offer it for you to borrow any ideas as you practice your own religion or just live your life. These ideas help us live more meaningfully, and we hope they do the same for you.
Say you’re sorry. Make peace. Ban the grudges. Ban the “buts.” A true apology requires no explanation just the words, “I am sorry.” Reach out to those you maybe haven’t talked to in a while or if you’re upset with them, give it up and move forward. Use your bandwidth for good thoughts and deeds. Doing so can also be contagious.
Buy something new to wear. Barbara’s mother always bought her a new outfit for the new year to wear to services. It was symbolic of a fresh start, and she did the same with her daughters.
Eat sweets. This is probably one of the only times you’ll hear this. Yay! Margaret is ready to indulge. It’s all about wishing for a sweet new year. Apples and honey are typical symbols as well as honey cake, applesauce cake and rugelach. Delish. Forget the calorie-worries. Tomorrow’s a new day.
Cut out one vice for a week, a month, a year. Margaret’s biggest vice is sugar. She also wants to work on having more patience. She will attempt to consume sugar in moderation and practice patience whether with her children, technology or with any of the tasks or folks she encounters each day. Barbara hopes to exercise every single day more and reach her daily goal of at least 10,000 steps, even though the number suggested by some has been lowered to 4,000.
Make a new to-do list and delete the old one, if you can. Start over and decide what’s important and not a time suck. A positive outlook is the goal. Do you spend more time with your ailing mother or siblings or friends who are alone or lonely? Do something special for friends in need that requires you to listen, feed them or read to them. Do you help out a sibling, cousin or one of your children who may need a shoulder or some extra time together?
Do something that makes you feel good/makes you laugh. Watch a fun movie such as Barbie or Caddyshack, read a David Sedaris book and laugh out loud, attend a feel-good show such as Rock and Roll or hilarious Just for Us, both on Broadway. Barbara hopes to see Adam Sandler’s You’re Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah. Spend time with friends who have great senses of humor and make you laugh. Do something wacky. Have a game night that you don’t take seriously. Take up pickleball. No need to be competitive, just have fun, or at least forget the heavy thinking all day long. Laugh at yourselves making gaffes.
Start a gratitude list. This will make your next year so much better. Shift your focus to something positive. It will give you a new perspective on how lucky you are. You have friends? Hooray. Family? Double hooray. Have a home and roof? That’s huge. Food and healthcare, you are extra-duper lucky.
Give back. Commit a significant act of charity to jump start a benevolent year. Make someone else’s life have a better beginning in the new year. The payoff: You will feel so good. And don’t just give money or show the plastic. Get involved with people face-to-face or mask-to-mask.
Do something creative whether an art project, something musical, writing a poem or an essay/op ed, knit, pearl, crochet. Margaret has started singing in groups/choruses again. Barbara paints in a weekly art class and does several painting retreats. She also is in a cookbook book club at her library, and they bring dishes from a cookbook or food book they’ve loved. This week it was held, and she baked a favorite cake from a Maida Heatter cookbook since the author just turned 107.
Make at least one big change whether a new relationship/friend, lover, job or living situation. Maybe get closer to a sibling or parent with whom you’ve been somewhat estranged. Or that friend from grade school. Email or call and re-engage. Even if it doesn’t become a long-lasting friendship, you made a new pal.
Be kind. Do one act of kindness each day whether it’s calling a friend or family member to check up on them or simply holding a door open for someone. Or bake something special for someone who doesn’t know how.
Pay off any debts. Why start the new year behind the eight ball. Tell yourself this is the year to budget and save for that big purchase whether a car or a new home.
Decide to have at least one new adventure out of your comfort zone. It might be an exotic trip to somewhere in Africa or Asia or a volunteer vacation, a try at a new skill such as surfing, a new career, a big move from that too big or expensive home to something smaller with a smaller yard.
Stay healthy or get healthier. Start a new exercise regimen. A better diet. Go to doctors (including dentists) for annual checkups or make appointments to do so and follow what they advise. At our age, that can be almost the equivalent of a career.
Give a compliment or two or three. Too many are stingy and think such kind thoughts but don’t say them out loud. Do so even when you don’t know the person. I love your lipstick color; that dress looks so well on you; you hit that golf stroke fabulously. Feels good to share kind thoughts.
Don’t stew. If you don’t like that your spouse or partner never gives you a gift, speak up but kindly. He or she or they may not be a mind reader. Or you’re annoyed a friend forget your birthday, again speak up kindly; what’s going on in their life?
Don’t assume. You think you know why someone did or didn’t do something. Don’t waste previous time writing scenarios in your head. Ask what’s going on or move on.
Don’t gossip. It’s hurtful, especially if it gets back to the person. But even if it doesn’t, it’s not kind and sometimes can be quite mean. Do you want others gossiping about you? Probably not, so don’t engage, and if someone starts to do so, kindly say, can we change the conversation?
Respect those in authority and appreciate their service whether military, police, teachers, nurses and doctors, parents and grandparents. Also show respect to such service providers such as servers, clerks, librarians and more. Most aim to please. Say thank-you each time. A cashier asked Barbara what she was making when she recently bought more flour, sugar, blueberries. She said muffins and then brought some for her the next day.
Clean something whether a room, drawers, the refrigerator, a closet. And downsize so the next generation doesn’t have to do it once you are no longer alive. Barbara periodically polishes silverware, her late mother’s “job” when she visited, so now Barbara also does this at her two daughters’ homes.
Use your brain. Take a language class. Learn to tap dance. Try one of the word puzzles in the New York Times or any one of the many crosswords puzzles available. Read some of the classics and maybe join a book group to discuss. Or watch a documentary on TV rather than just fluff.
Make a new start. The benefits of a life well lived might not be monetary, but the payback of being a good person can have the best return of all for now and in perpetuity. And if you don’t get around to do all at Rosh Hashanah, any time is the right time.