“Rosh Hashana” is a nicer way of saying Screwing Up Less Often

Oh, yeah — we hit it again. Two parking tickets this morning, and one’s more than $100.

Man, this Rosh Hashana is shaping up to a great start.

I flipped. It’s not pleasant to say, but I felt steam coming out of my nostrils and ears. There was a very small phone, and I started yelling into it — to a friend, who really didn’t deserve any of it. I mean, he didn’t write the tickets.

“How do you do it?” I asked my friend. “You’re always growing.” It’s true: he’s always talking about how he’s waking up at 5:30 a.m. instead of 6 in order to get more stuff done, or the vegetable patch he’s tending on his balcony, or new recipes for cobbler (I don’t even know what cobbler is).

He told me: “It’s hard to perfect your butterfly stroke when you’re struggling to keep your head above water.” And I feel like this is hitting pretty much everyone I know right now. How do the Lehman brothers (assuming there are brothers, and that they’re Jewish) focus on being better people? How do we keep from going bankrupt? How does the girl I know who just tried to kill herself work on the abstract idea of “improving herself”? How do I start helping out with the cooking and the laundry when I’m in the office for 8 hours, the subway for two more, and there’s this book I wrote that I’m supposed to be promoting?

Pretty much the only one I know who’s having an easy time of it is my editor David, and that’s because he’s being played by Michael Cera in the movie of his book.

Okay, stop.

Not to pick on David (L*rd knows he’s pick-on-able), but he could probably tell me about problems of his own. Problems that seem at least as dire as the $160 worth of tickets we racked up today…or the innumerably worse sin that I keep on committing by telling the rest of the world about it.* Everyone’s in a different spot in life. And even each of us — we’re in a different spot than we were last year, or last month, or 5 minutes ago. And we don’t do penance in Judaism. Instead, the idea is to constantly be moving up — ratzu v’shuv, we call it. One of my friends just moved to the South last year, met an amazing rabbi, and blasted through Rosh Hashana. This year, he got fired and she’s skipping it. I was better at doing a lot of things last year than I am this year…and I can say that having a screaming 7-month-old got in the way of some of them. (Sayonara, complete-and-uninterrupted morning prayers.) Most of them, though — well, I spent some time trying to do the perfect butterfly stroke, and some of that time trying to sink myself.

Every year I put together a top-12 list of ways to a better Matthue for Rosh Hashana. Last year, it took me till Simchat Torah. But here’s my Rosh Hashana resolution for this year: Try to stay in the moment. Don’t worry about things until they’re right in front of me — but, as much as I can, try to see everything that’s front of me, and try to keep them from turning into things to worry about. When Zusha came to the Ba’al Shem Tov and mourned that he’d never be perfect, the Ba’al Shem Tov told him, “Try to be less like me, and more like Zusha.”

This Rosh Hashana, I’m going to try and be more like Zusha.

And I’m going to be better about seeing what’s in front of my face.

* – It’s true. Lashon Hara, or gossiping, is one of the worst things you can do to a person. I’m praying as I write this that her good humor, together with the faint possibility of teaching people a constructive lesson through it. D’oh.

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