Published On: Wed, Dec 14th, 2022

The Secret to Resolutions

Written by Rabbi Stephanie Shore

Shana Tova!

We are very fortunate to have with us today a bestselling author. This author is intelligent, dynamic and thought-provoking and with years of experience has learned how to express clearly and mindfully helpful information that can guide us and propel us into the next phase of our lives no matter what age we are.

I would like to introduce you to YOU! You are the author of YOUR Book of life and while the book we write may not be read by others our behavior tells the story and is experienced by the people we encounter, every day, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

It is said, in a given lifetime we will meet approximately 80,000 people and influence about 10,000 of them. Influence means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.

Although, as Jews, we celebrated our Jewish New Year in September, our secular New Year is upon us. Many of us will make, “New Years Resolutions” which we know may last a while until we forget and resort back to our patterned lives.

In our book however, we are making an entry each day. What does our book say? Are our actions and behaviors telling a story that we would want our children to read?

We might think the book we write is kept locked up in the confines of our minds however if we look at the Unetaneh Tokef a prayer we recite during our High Holidays we read that, “God opens the book of our days, and what is written there proclaims itself, for it bears the signature of every human being.” The liturgy continues, saying, “The great Shofar is sounded, the still, small voice is heard; the angels, gripped by fear and trembling, declare in awe: This is the Day of Judgement! For event he hosts of heaven are judged.” The prayer continues with a litany of frightening and fateful reminders that our actions indeed not only influence others but the destiny or our own lives. Although there are popular legends concerning the origin of this poem, we do not know who wrote it but it’s words resound as a trumpet call for us to right ourselves quickly while the heavenly gates are open.

On Rosh Hashanah it is written on Yom Kippur it is sealed. We know what comes next: Who shall live and who shall die? Which is followed by a piyyut, a liturgical poem.  The concepts of which come from Jewish apocalyptic literature and parallel Christian writings based on similar sources, the most famous of which is the Dies irae (day of wrath)—found in the requiem mass—which offers a vivid description of the day of judgment for all humankind. Ours not the end of days as the Christian liturgy suggests but a yearly accounting of our lives.

I have never taken these words literally. Instead, I believe them to be a metaphor and a blueprint for our spiritual lives.

I have interpreted them in this way:

On Rosh Hashana it is written,

On Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many shall continue existing the way they are, how many shall emerge into their true selves living and strive towards their highest inner potential?

Who shall embrace life, living each moment to its fullest, seeing the full spectrum of colors in every living thing and who shall survive, in a world that is small, seeing only shades of black and grey?

Who will live to an age that is seasoned to perfection and who shall overlook to enjoy the seasons?

Who shall be consumed by the heat of fiery passions and lusts, which call to our lower selves blocking us off from the Eternal Light that burns within us?

And who shall use things we instinctually need in an unbalanced way so that we drown ourselves in the waters of overindulgence?

Who will feel stabbed by the sword of victimization, rather than taking responsibility for actions and doing t’shuvah (amending our ways) in order to live with inner peace and serenity?

And who by the beast of ego that makes it impossible to admit that at times we are wrong?

Who will thirst with a craving unlike any other with a hunger of the soul that never satisfied?

Who will live ungrounded in the rich soil of our tradition, and therefore insecure within oneself and distressed by life like a flower plucked from its bed?

Who shall prevent themselves from growth by choking themselves off from the breadth of knowledge, wisdom and life, living in a mind that is small and filled with judgment, criticism, and prejudice?

Who shall live at peace within oneself, living with a G!d consciousness that is both comforting and life propelling and who shall be uncomfortable within constantly driven, searching, looking for something but never finding ‘it’?

Who shall be serene, comfortable within, experiencing the Divine Creator with each breath, and who shall be anxious unable to live in the moment, always thinking about the moments passed or the times to come?

Who shall feel deprived and therefore somehow less than and who shall feel prosperous?

Who shall feel humble knowing at all times before whom we stand and in awe at the magnificence of G!d’s presence in every living thing that surrounds us?

And then the caveat follows that if we amend our ways, make prayer our way of life and perform acts of loving-kindness we can avert the ominous payoffs of our behavior and once again live in peace.

Our G!d loves us like crazy and is constantly giving us reminders that G!d’s loving presence is with us always.

It is written in our liturgy: “G!d whither can I go from Your Spirit? Whither can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to the heavens, You are there? If I make my home in the lowest depths, behold, You are there? If I take up the wings of the morning, or dwell in the ocean’s farthest shore, even there Your hand will lead me, Your right hand will hold me.  And if I say: Surely the darkness will conceal me, night will hide me from view, even the darkness is not too dark for You ; the dark is clear as the day.

We ask, “What am I, that You have given me thought to fathom something of Your purpose? Yet upon the earth with all its abundance and beauty, forests dancing with life, mountains rising like prayers, seas roaring their creative hymn- with all the mysteries of the boundless depths and the immeasurable heights-You have chosen us to proclaim Your grandeur and to voice the longing of all being for You, O Eternal One of the universe and fountain of life! In woman and man, children of dust and offspring of heaven, You have blended two worlds: perishable earth and immortal soul; finite matter, locked into time and space, and infinite spirit, which endures through all eternity. You have given us dominion over the works of Your hands, and placed all things under Your care. You have commanded us to live at peace with all living creatures, and to walk softly in their presence.

Aware of our weakness, Eternal G!d, we have come before You, longing for Your presence, Your light, Your peace. We have reflected with anguish on a life misused and filled with regrets, on opportunities neglected and promises unfulfilled.

We have struggled to reach You, to turn back to You and to Your Law. Accept then our penitent spirits; be with us as our hope for the future.

Now, as this secular New Year approaches, light dawns within us, hope and trust revive. The shadow that darkened our spirit is vanished; and through the passing cloud there breaks, with the last rays of the setting sun, the radiance of Your forgiving peace.  We are restored, renewed by Your love.

How can we find words to thank You for Your goodness, and how can words alone be fitting thanks? And so we make this pledge: We will thank You with our lives; we will offer to You the work of our hands. Fill then our heart, our life our work, with a constant love for You, God of the universe, Creator of all life, Source of all being. Then shall our souls rejoice and sing: “You have turned my grief into dancing, released me from my anguish, and surrounded me with gladness: Oh my God, I shall give thanks to You forever!”

Knowing at any time and especially during these days we can rededicate ourselves to adding ethical, moral and mindful actions to the pages of our book. You can be certain it will be read not only by our children and our fellows but by the Sovereign of the World. We are called to act as Kingdom of Priests a Holy People. Is this what your book reflects?

Each of us has something as we flip our life’s pages that can be improved or changed. Seize this moment for it is never too late when it comes to matters of the soul and spirit.

It says in our Talmud, “Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.” If your life isn’t already a gift to God that it could be add another chapter and create a life that will seal you for a spectacular year to come.

About the Author

- Rabbi Stephanie Shore Concierge Rabbi, Founder, Executive Director CyberSynagogue, Inc. CyberSynagogue is a Not-For-Profit Tax Exempt 501(c)(3) Smile It's Contagious!

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