Worshipers at the Western Wall 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The days before and after Rosh Hashana are considered of the most important and meaningful in the Jewish calender. During this period, even non-observant Jews around the world take time to think back over the year that has passed, while looking forward to the year ahead. Even though we can’t control what will happen in the future, we can look back at those moments in the previous year that helped to shape us and those around us.
Jews don’t celebrate the New Year with mass gatherings or pumping parties. Instead, this is a time spent with family and close friends in more intimate surroundings, usually around the dinner table. This gives us the chance to think about how we’ve influenced those around us, what we did well and what we could improve on for the next year. This cycle is important, and reminds us that we can always learn from the events of the previous year and use this knowledge to try make the next year better.
While the life cycle can be seen as linear, advancing from stage to stage with no repetitions, it can also be seen as a cycle of processes that repeat themselves. Professor Miriam Faust from Bar-Ilan University reviewed several studies that have shown that there are six main realms that characterize people's interactions with the world and how they develop relationship systems. These include their relationship with themselves, their spouse, their family, their work place, their friends and their community. Faust suggests that the development of these relationships is cyclical and can be broken down into four distinct stages: Initiation, adaptation, reassessment and reconciliation.
This notion is especially relevant as the New Year approaches: We can use these stages to asses our experiences with those that we interact with most. This introduces the idea of repentance, which many people carry out during Rosh Hashana through the addition of selichot
- which are special prayers for forgiveness that help prepare us for reflection and self-examination. Identifying the experiences that shaped our year and reflecting on them not only allows us to have some sort of closure, but more importantly allows us to look forward and continue the cycle. By identifying the past, we are given the tools to move into the future.
Either intentionally or unintentionally, most of us have hurt someone that we know over the past year, and during the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, known as the Days of Awe, we are given an opportunity to reflect, apologize and change. This idea of change lends itself well to the theme of the life-cycle, as we know that situations can be changed and we can take the positives and negatives from the previous year and use them to influence the year ahead.
Sometimes the theories surrounding this time of year can be hard to translate into reality. We are told to search within and analyze our relationships. The experiences that we review can be both positive and negative. It could be that we learned a positive lesson from a negative experience or the other way around: that we have decided to start something new that's missing in our life, or to stop doing something that hurts us.
It is not just the relationships that we have with others that affect
the life cycle, how we act towards ourselves and our environment are
also important. What we inflict on ourselves will most likely affect us
the most and these are the actions that we are able to control the most. The recent "tent protest" proved that a stern resolution made by a few
can impact the entire nation.
Here at JPost we’re interested to hear which moments defined this past
year for you personally, and how they will influence the year ahead.
We want to hear about the changes that impacted your year, whether it be
a decision you've made, a personal gain or loss, a family event or a
community gathering. Tell us about your experience how it affected you
and what you’ve gained from it in order to improve the next year.
Please send in your stories in text, image or video (or any combination
of the above mentioned), to firstname.lastname@example.org
. The best story will win
a two-night weekend stay at The Grand Court Hotel in Jerusalem.
The winner will be chosen by a panel composed of Lifestyle Editor Yoni
Cohen, Internet Desk Manager Elana Kirsh and Managing Editor Moshe
Stories must be submitted by Wednesday, October 12, 2011. The winner
will be announced the following week on Wednesday October 19.
Selected entries will be published on JPost.com.