Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two approaches to the Yamim Noraim

First night Rosh HaShanah this year I was a guest over a friend's house. We were talking and I mentioned that I thought I was less prepared for the High Holidays this year than I had been for quite a while. He asked why, and I explained that between work, Malka Esther's health, and the large number of shiurim I was attending and the work associated with preparing for those shiurim I hadn't actually found much time for cheshbon hanefesh (self examination).

He commented that all my Torah study counted as a great zechut (merit) and thus I really didn't have much to worry about this year. I realized we were celebrating the same holidays two very different ways.

In my eyes, this was a time to engage in self examination, to review my spiritual goals from last year (cut down the personal sarcasm, check, make it to shul every Sunday morning for shacharit, oops, etc.) to decide what I need to work on for next year, to review where I've blundered badly in my personal relationships and figure out who to apologize to for what, and so forth. Since I hadn't done most any of that, I was poorly prepared. Torah study didn't really enter into it, other than my having set a goal of maintaining some serious torah study.

To my friend this was the time when Avinu Malkenu reviewed my actions over the past year, being pleased with my mitzvot and dismayed by my sins. All my torah study didn't just count towards one goal, rather it was a major plus in evaluating my entire status. While I needed to get forgiveness from those I had wronged in order for Hashem to forgive me, the merit of Torah study still counted a long way towards my receiving approval from Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

How do my readers see the holiday? Primarily a time for self examination(*) or primarily a time for divine judgment, or something else altogether?

(*) I wanted to make a joke about zman chesbon nefashenu but my friends who take grammar seriously would not have been amused, Plus that is deflecting via sarcasm again, and I'm still trying to stop that.

1 comment:

Shira Salamone said...

I see the Yamim Noraim primarily as a time for self-examination and trying to improve my behavior, but I'm not very good at either. :( Being more liturgically than spiritually inclined, I'm more likely to connect with the High Holidays as times when certain prayers and/or nusach (prayer melodies) are heard that aren't heard at any other time of the year. I actually make it a point to encourage Jews by Choice at this time of year by telling them that they *will,* in fact, know all the Yamim Noraim tunes after a number of years, as difficult as it may be to believe.