On Turning

Fall is the time of year that leaves are turning there glorious colors before winter. Fall is also the time of the Jewish New Year, not totally unlike the secular new year on January 1st. However, the Jewish New Year emphasizes more than just resolutions for the coming year. The word teshuva is repeated often. It means “turning within.” So this is the time of the year when we look at the past year to see what are credits and debits are, where we succeeded and where we missed the mark, and make some decisions about our behavior for the coming year. Actually, the expression, “Turning Over A New Leaf” is very appropriate here.

Our husband and wife rabbis, something like Click & Clack on NPR’s Car Talk, or perhaps often like Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn in the movies in which they “spar,” Rabbi Sarah & Rabbi Jeff use their double imaginations to keep us from becoming bored with the similar services every holiday. This year they came up with an interesting way to donate food for the hungry, something synagogues do every year at this time. Our rabbis lined up plastic baggies with four different foods (one in each bag) as a metaphor for teshuva & a prompt on what to bring. The four snacks were:

1. Chocolate Kisses to help you repair any rift between you and someone else.
2. Honey Straws to resolve the stickiness of conflict, making a review of your soul (Chesbon nephesh) and vow to clean any messes from last year.
3. Bubble Gum to chew over and over and resolve to stop repeating old habits, sinking your teeth into new endeavors.
4. Fire Balls to remind you of “scorching” words and to practice speaking words of kindness and sharing words of wisdom, as well as refraining from gossip and harsh criticism.


Each of the baggies had a suggestion of what to bring next week when food will be collected. My husband chose #1 and was asked to bring something sweet but not perishable, so I bought fruit leathers in Trader Joe’s. I picked #3 (but also could have picked #4) and was asked to bring peanut butter. The exercise was a good one in reminding us about turning within (as well as the give and take of forgiveness), both of which go hand-in-hand with missing the mark with yourself, the people you live with, work with, are related to, or are friends with.


The rabbi also talked about clutter as a barrier to getting in the way of our goals, whether mental, physical, or spiritual. My goal is to get rid of the clutter of reading material that I have been filing (or not filing!) for my website.  I have so many articles I could write 24 hours each day and never get through them all. Actually, this decision comes on the heels of my recent conversation  with my friend Honey, who is a counselor in the tradition of Byron Katie. We talked about my frustration of not putting all my rhymes on the computer & in a notebook, and getting rid of the clutter will help me get to this project even sooner, I hope.


I wanted to share this with you, because no matter your belief system, almost all of us have some kind of clutter, either physical or mental, that stops us from reaching our goals. The service yesterday was another step on my path of doing what I love (writing) without all the other obligations weighing on my mind.  Since my writing  for this site is not what I do to make money, it often goes on the back burner while I take care of other obligations, including working, then beating myself up for not following my passion, even if it isn’t lucrative financially. (It is “lucrative” mentally & spiritually, though.)

So perhaps this posting will prompt you to take a look at your goals & resolutions from last January and use the next three plus months to see how many of them you can complete, so you have a feeling of success on December 31st. Let me know how you make out & I will do the same. ♥

Note: The pictures are stock photos from the Internet.

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