The cliche is so old that it’s barely worth repeating: the High Holidays are the time when we deeply reflect on who we are, what we want, and how God ties into all of this.
It’s certainly true that this is the case for a whole host of people. For me, not so much.
When High Holidays happens, thoughts of all the things I have done wrong and how I am going to do better are swept aside by worries that OneShul might crash during the Yom Kippur service, or that there might not be enough blog posts on PunkTorah, or that I’m overburdening our many volunteers with requests to help me out. With the addition of leading services in my local Atlanta, I was feeling overtaxed, and yet, feeling as though I under-delivered on all fronts.
When the holidays were over, I felt a time to breathe — a time to think about all the things I, and countless other Jewish spiritual leaders across the world, were asking people to do. It took the end of High Holidays for me to finally get the High Holidays experience.
Cheshvan is an interesting month in the Jewish calendar, because it’s the only month that does not have an extra Jewish obligation, such as a holiday. We won’t have anything other than Shabbat until Hanukkah. And that’s a true miracle, because a month without that monkey on your back is a terrific opportunity to get your act together, physically, mentally and of course, spiritually.
If High Holidays left you with a feeling like you have been cheated out of introspection, or if you didn’t observe the holidays at all, take this month of Cheshvan to be a bit more “tuned in” to what really matters.
For me, that’s a few things.
Empowering You, and Letting You Know You Matter
Always the goal: always the number one goal, and the thing I strive for the most. But I can’t do that without your help. Those “comment” spaces below…if you don’t fill them up, then we as a community can’t do anything. If you are reading this post and don’t comment, it is as if it wasn’t read at all. Your impact matters, your input matters, because you matter.
Less Screen Time, More Life Time
My computer is for work, and for connecting to this community. Nothing else. Same goes for my vast series of Apple products that serve as a tool to suck up my time as well as social media that is neither the way I want to engage socially, nor the kind of media I want to consume. If it has a screen, then I look at it as a tool, not as a lifestyle. I spent five years commenting on every blog post by every need-to-follow Jewish blogger. If something was on Facebook, I had to repost it, or retweet it, or re-whatever-it. I haven’t been that way in a while, but I’m amping up my silence even more.
Peace means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For me, it means slowing down. I don’t need to be a blogger, author, singer in a punk band, perfect rabbi, even more perfect husband, a negotiator, an activist, an agitator, executive director, public speaker, lifecycle officiant, world traveler, website developer, a “brave” MS patient, the friend everyone wants or anything else. I need to be whatever is true. Truth, even if it creates temporary pain, is often the pathway to peace. When I’m tired, burned out and overworked, or over-loved, over-relaxed, and over-satisfied to a fault, I have the right to call foul and do something else.
I also don’t need all the answers. Saying “I don’t know” is something I encourage in other people, because I think shrugging your shoulders is often a sign of true bravery. If I don’t have the answer, I need to be OK with my lack of knowledge, and move on.
So that’s what I think. What do you think?
Rabbi Patrick is the executive director of PunkTorah. This blog post was inspired by a sermon given by Rabbi Sandler at Congregation Ahavath Achim in Atlanta, GA.