When I was trying to think of what to write about for this post about Rosh Hashana, I figured I would start by looking at what I wrote on this blog last year (see here), so I could be sure not to repeat myself. That gave me a good laugh, because I saw that I wrote, “I always start by looking at the past year. Where was I last Rosh Hashana?” And, here I am again, looking back at last year. I do this because I try to think about how it was I got from there to here. Did I get here because I was passive and let myself sail down the river wherever life takes me, or did I row upstream and try hard to get here? It’s a little bit of both. Last year I wrote about how I look at the past and look at the future, and how I try to balance between feeling guilt and regret, and feeling hopeful and inspired.
This year, my thoughts are in a completely different place. Mostly I am in a very different place than I was last year- my life has changed so much in the past year, in very good ways. All the changes I talked about and hoped for at the beginning of the summer managed to work themselves out. Things in my life are busier now, which ironically has meant I have had less to write about. Somehow when things were slower and life was more boring I had so much to write about.
One thought I had about Rosh Hashana, is that in listening/reading to shiurim and other thoughts related to Rosh Hashana, I found all the parables being used to be completely un-relatable. Most of them are about Kings ruling a Kingdom and judgment. Sure, I understand what that means in theory, but it doesn’t relate practically to my life. Same thing with scales- I understand what a scale is, but the only kind of scale I use in my life is the one I hop on to see how much I weigh- not one of those scales in the classic Elul picture which looks more like a seesaw. Now, a seesaw I could relate to. But what about a King? How can I make the theme of Rosh Hashana, which is the idea of “Hashem Melech,” that Hashem is King and rules over my life, something that I understand not only in theory, but practically?
Since I have been in the working world, the thing that pops most into my mind is a CEO of a company or a President of a company. They have many employees and the job of every employee is to work for the CEO. At the end of the day, even if he or she is not your boss directly, he or she is your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss, and the bottom line is that you report to them. I’d like to share one of my experiences with you.
In one place that I worked, we had evaluations. This is a great Mashal for Rosh Hashana. It was not with the CEO, it was with your supervisor, but the CEO reviewed all of the forms. I was given a piece of paper with a bunch of different categories and I had to rate myself on a scale of 1 to 5 on how well I thought I was doing in each area. Then I had a meeting with my boss, who went over each of the criteria and gave me a rating in each area. I was quite nervous for that meeting! I mean, what if my supervisor was about to tell me that I was doing an awful job? Taking criticism is not easy.
Luckily, overall, my meeting went very well. For most of the categories, my boss and I were on the same page in terms of how well we thought I was doing. Then there were the categories where my supervisor thought I rated myself too low, and that I was actually doing much better than that. I figured it was safe to stay on the modest side instead of saying, “I think I’m great at everything!” But then there were the few items on the list where I thought I was doing well and my supervisor gently informed me that in fact I needed to improve a little bit. That is never easy to hear, but I gulped, nodded, and accepted what was said, knowing it was right (in the case where I disagreed I did speak up to defend myself.)
The interesting thing about employee evaluations is that looking around at other employees there was one factor that stood out to me as to which employees were better at what they were doing, and that factor is: How dedicated, committed, and passionate are they about the mission of the company? Everyone has a different job to do, and those who are there just to do their job and don’t care about where the company is going as a whole aren’t as good at what they do as those who are mission driven.
The same is true for us on Rosh Hashana. The reason Rosh Hashana is so critical is because we take a chance to say: Who are we working for? What is the point of everything that we do? Sure, we can go about the motions of doing Mitzvot, but if we don’t have this sense of WHY we are doing what we are doing, then it is so easy to slack off. Rosh Hashana is our wake up call to remind us that our mission in this world is to serve G-d.
Wishing you all a meaningful Rosh Hashana, a Shana Tova, and a Ketiva V’Chatima Tova! May we all be written in the book of life, and may this year be one of health and happiness for all, one in which all of our prayers be answered for the good.