Examining Our Lives

September 26, 2012

This is the time of year when, in the Jewish tradition, our lives are examined. We bring the previous year to mind in order to find its truth. What is the truth about myself? Were my words and actions what I meant them to be last year at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when I made resolutions for the New Year? Were there times my words were not as kind and compassionate, as patient as I wanted them to be (ask my teenage daughter!)? Could I have done more for the community, for the earth, for my mother?


Questions such as these are always answered in the affirmative. We could always do more, do better. No archer, not even Robin Hood, can hit the center of the target every time.


The truth, however, is greater, and also requires other questions. Did my words make a difference for another person? What were my deeds that supported others and made the world a better place? What did I say or do that nobody else in the world could have done? How did I keep the promise that I made to myself last year?


Sometimes it is very hard to acknowledge the truth of misdeeds, and make amends. We do so in order to “clean the slate” and make ourselves ready to do better in the coming year. However, it can be even more challenging to acknowledge the truth of our good deeds, and thus accept ourselves as complete human beings.


Every culture has its own system of social rules. In ours, politeness dictates that we do not focus on our accomplishments or good deeds. When we speak of them, we don’t want others to think that we are “bragging.” We are taught that the highest form of giving is that which is anonymous. Similarly, it is expected that we will do the right thing without the expectation of praise; however, our mistakes are routinely criticized. In time, this is internalized, and we hardly notice our successes, while criticizing ourselves, sometimes repeatedly, for our mistakes.


And yet, it is the knowledge of ourselves as good people which allows us to understand when we have missed the mark and gone astray. In some way, the more we are aware of the times we have gone out of our way to help, the times we have made a difference, of when we have acted in accordance with our own ethical principles, we create a conscious pattern of good deeds.


So how has this last year been for you? How did you “hit the mark”? Can you remember when your words made a difference to another person, when your actions helped someone, when you did something to make the world better? Is it possible for you to accept your truth, and from the wholeness of self-knowledge, make choices for the coming year?


Focused on the wholeness of our beings, we awaken to another year, rededicating ourselves to strengthen the pattern that we create out of compassion, kindness and love, commitment to social justice, and our intention to make the world a better place for all life.


Shana tova — have a happy and healthy new year.


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