A New Way to Prepare for the High Holidays

I’m advocating a new angle on Heshbon Nefesh, ‘soul’s accounting’, that we do in preparation to the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Know Thyself

“Know thyself” – from a Greek Temple at Delphi

This soul work begins with the ancient Greek dictum, “know thyself”? Or, to put it more rabbinically, “know before whom you stand?”  I ask myself:  What am I afraid of?  Deep down, what are my real hopes?

An investment of time and focus in anticipation of the holidays elevates the experience. Without the prep-work, is there any doubt that 5 hour services could be a drag? It’s like showing up to the Olympic marathon having not stretched, not worked out, and perhaps not having run in an entire year (or more). The results won’t be good.

I base my approach on practices of the Penn Resiliency Project, of Positive Psychology – this soul’s accounting tackles our fears and hopes for the coming year head-on and in a practical way. Here are the steps:

For each of the categories of your life (friends, relationships with each family member, work, personal health, etc.) do the following:
1) List 3 things that you are most afraid will happen in the coming year. (I encourage you to be honest with your fears – just get the realistic and unfounded flow out of you).
2) List 3 things that you deeply hope will happen in the coming year.
3) List 3 things that are most likely to happen this year.

You’ve just put pen to paper about your worries and your hopes as well as what is most realistically going to happen – Reality is most often found in that middle ground between worst and best.

Now, list steps to take:
A) For each of your fears listed, give yourself 3 simple steps to take to prevent the worst from happening.
B) For each of the things you hope will happen this year, give yourself 3 simple steps that would help make that happen.

Having the opportunity to be honest about our hopes and fears, and creating realistic steps about how to prevent or coax them along, has a tremendous empowering effect on our spiritual preparation for the New Year.  It leads to greater joy and to greater optimism.


positive-emotion-image-map-with-instructions

Discover More

How to Find a Mahzor (High Holiday Prayer Book)

Options for purchasing printed books and downloading free PDFs.

How to Make Perfect Holiday Brisket with Help from Grow and Behold

Brisket is one of the most iconic Jewish American dishes, though every family and every Jewish cook has their own ...

Beet Chips with Spicy Honey Mayo

Sprinkled with a little salt, these crunchy chips are delicious on their own, and even better when paired with a sweet and spicy pareve mayonnaise

6 Tips for Hosting a Solo Passover Seder

Having a Seder by yourself or with a small group doesn't have to be a lonely experience.

Passover 2021

In 2021, the first Passover seder is on Saturday, April March 27.

Lighting Shabbat Candles

Everything you need to know about kindling the Sabbath lights.

Shabbat Blessings for Friday Night

Lighting the candles, saying Kiddush and other Shabbat dinner rituals.

Modern Jewish Holidays 101

There are a handful of holidays that entered Jewish life in the latter half of the 20th century.