Here in Alaska, the leaves are leaving the trees quickly, fluttering to the ground and piling up. Our brief fall is fleeing and the chill is setting in. In this week, we’ve been preparing for Yom Kippur. It even feels like a whole new year with the house painted a new color, one of the biggest things we needed to do to get it ready for sale.
As I look back over the past year and ahead to the new, I see so many things I could improve on, but I also see a lot of progress I made. My Hebrew is so much better this year, since I really concentrated on improving it last year. I still can’t read as fast as our lightning-fast Chazzan goes, but I can read much more smoothly and I can can keep up reading along, even through the Torah portions in the Chumash. For me, that’s a big thing. I find I suddenly feel so much more comfortable in services because I know where we are and if I need to step away, I can find where we are. This year, I’m hoping to bulk up my vocabulary.
I’ve also really grown in my ability to let go and trust. That’s brought SO much more peace into my life. I think studying Menuchas HaNefesh really helped with that. It’s basically the Jewish way of living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I find it helps me to realize that anything I’m going through or feeling is fleeting and I am grounded in something greater. I’m able to let go of the things that used to take up so much time and space in my head and instead focus on what’s most important in my life.
A year ago, this time, we were kind of floating between Jewish communities. We were sort of affiliated with the Reform Synagogue in town, but we never really felt like we fit in there. We were accepted as Jews, but I never felt like we belonged as people. Every week, someone would say something that just didn’t fit with how we experience Judaism. Although everyone was very nice to us, it really felt like there was this invisible wall that we just couldn’t reach past. We longed to return to Orthodox Judaism and finish our conversions, but we just weren’t sure it was possible in Alaska and for some reason, even the idea of moving hadn’t entered our minds. We were like the elephant that doesn’t know it is now big enough to pull up the stake and instead we thought we were stuck.
Now, there is a way forward. It means saying goodbye to Alaska, something we all have mixed feelings about, but it also means opening up a whole new world for us as a Jewish family.
This week, I concentrate on Tefilla, Tzedekah, and Teshuva, which are the things which can improve or soften the judgment we were all given on Rosh Hashanah. I look at my life for where I can make improvements, where I can offer more to the world of what I have to give, where I can improve my habits. I also can’t help but be grateful for the year we had and for where we are now compared to then.
May 5778 be a year of success for you as well, a year in which you rise above whatever has been bringing you down and find a greater connection with Hashem, in whatever way you connect best!