Every year at Rosh Hashanah, we stand in front of the Almighty and plead for another year. And every year, I’m tormented. What could I possibly say or do that would be enough? How much am I going to change? And haven’t I made so many of these same commitments (unsuccessfully) in the past? Is my credibility completely torn to shreds?
What kind of a difference do I plan to make in the world in the upcoming year? Does it need to be global? Can it be local? How about just within my own family? How about just me? What can be enough to justify the tremendous gift of life? The torment continues…
But I know Rosh Hashanah is not supposed to be a day of torture. And I know the Almighty is a loving Father. So how do I reconcile these ideas?
I think “Father” is the key. I think about being a parent, about my own parenting and relationship with my children and how that applies here.
How many chances do I give my children to grow and change? LOTS. How many of us have said, “I’m going to count to 10 and then…9-1/4, 9-1/2, 9-3/4…” We are desperate not to have to punish our children. It is our absolute last resort, when there seems to be no other choice. Otherwise, whatever they do, we are willing to find a good reason, to be understanding, to judge them favorably – to believe in their ability to do it right the next time.
Not only is the Almighty more compassionate than us, He sees much further. He sees options and opportunities we couldn’t possibly conceive of. He gives us an almost infinite number of chances. We just need to appreciate and take advantage of them.
Additionally, what do we expect of our children? Certainly not perfection. We only want (or should only want) that they try their best, that they give it their all. If they do and the outcome is a C, I am satisfied. (If it’s a C because they talked during the test – you know who I’m referring to! – that’s a different story!) How could it be otherwise? I can’t ask for more than they are capable of.
Our only grade is for effort.
The Almighty’s standards are not higher. Although He knows better what we are capable of and may, on occasion, push us to achieve our potential, He also knows that He controls the outcome. Our only grade is for effort.
And so our only job is to do our best. That eases the torment slightly – until I begin to contemplate what my best truly is. How much brain power is untapped? Do I really need all that sleep? If I ate a little healthier, would I have more energy? (Please tell me I can just continue to rely on coffee for that!) How many minutes or hours have I wasted? Was that conversation really an example of my higher self?
It turns out that doing our best isn’t easy either. But the Almighty is our Father and our Creator. He believes in us and wants us to succeed. His most fervent desire is to grant us another year, another opportunity. We just need to start along the path. He’ll meet us more than halfway. The torment eases some more…