When I was growing up, for New Years Eve I would sleep over at a friend’s house, eat bags and bags of M&Ms and watch some New Years program on TV until I couldn’t stand it anymore. In between talking with my friends about which celebrity is wearing what, we would write or discuss the resolutions we would take upon ourselves in the coming year. I remember how carefully I chose what my resolutions would be, how we would discuss the pros and cons, and how ashamed I was in thinking, oh I didn’t accomplish that in the old year, but surely I’ll be able to do it in the new year.
I have now realized that I should just as seriously take this upcoming New Year.
Not only is Rosh Hashana the time when we start to stand accountable for our actions, but it is also the perfect opportunity to commit to some resolutions. The resolutions should not be as lofty as “I will become more spiritual”, but rather they should be concrete, tangible resolutions that we can SEE ourselves doing. It is the last part – seeing myself doing the resolution – that I failed to understand when I was growing up. I didn’t see myself going to the gym every day, but my resolution was to exercise more. I was setting myself up for failure by committing to a resolution I knew I couldn’t fulfil.
It is easy to say that “I will become more spiritual”. But the real question is, how will I accomplish that? I believe that is what Rosh Hashana is really asking us: what are the exact steps we will take to reach that higher level? Will I attend morning davening 3 times a week instead of just on Shabbat? Will I say Modeh Ani in the morning? Will I be kinder to my parents? Will I watch TV less? Will I read more Jewish-oriented books? What do I actually believe and know I will be able to accomplish?
I have found that I can accomplish baby steps. I may not be ready to cover my hair all of the time, even at work, but I can cover my hair when I am doing my shopping. I am not ready yet to refrain from eating lunch with my work colleagues at a non-kosher restaurant – as a matter of fact, I failed miserably and berated myself over that – but I am ready to take baby steps to remedy that. I can’t guarantee to myself that I will accomplish something major by next Rosh Hashana, but I can confidently say that I will be able to take a certain number of steps to get there.
And getting there is half the battle. Who knows what I will learn about myself during that process, but I already learned that if I am confident in the process, then I can grow without bounds.