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Preparing for a New Year of Life

Yom Teruah / Rosh Hashanah

Person writing in a notebook with sunlight shining through window.

As the month of Elul comes to a close, it’s time to get serious about the set-apart days ahead.

It’s like preparing for an exam. We knew the test was coming, but when it comes down to the wire, that’s when we really get down to business. We spend every moment we can cramming for the big test.

That’s how we should feel now. An important examination is coming - Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgement. This is the day observed as Yom Teruah (aka Rosh Hashanah), and we’ve got to do all that we can to make sure we’re ready for the test.

These last few days and hours of Elul, we need to spend studying. The topic: ourselves.

We should spend every moment we can examining ourselves and our lives. Think of it like getting an evaluation, only you’re your own evaluator.

Take an honest assessment of the past year. Who have you been over the past year? What did your life look like? If it helps, write it down.

Returning to Our Creation

Tradition holds that the very first Yom Teruah was the sixth day of creation. It was the day that YAHUAH created man - the day that His plan for the world was made complete.

Everything before that day was simply setting the stage. For the first five days, YAHUAH was creating a world in which man would have everything he needed to fulfill his purpose, which was to have a relationship with YAH.

On the sixth day, YAHUAH created a human being from the earth, and He blew into him the breath of life. He gave man a neshama, a soul, a part of Himself. This would be man’s direct connection to His Creator. Man had everything he needed to esteem YAHUAH and develop a relationship with His Creator.

This is the focus of Yom Teruah, returning to the beginning, the Creation. That’s teshuvah, the return.

As we lead up to that, in these last days of Elul, we should be considering the Creation and the creation of ourselves. Who did YAHUAH create us to be? For what purpose?

Examine yourself to see who you really are. Connect with your neshama. Who is the real you? Who is the unique person YAHUAH created? What talents, gifts, and abilities has He given you?

Realizing Our Potential

We were created from the earth. The earth can bring forth weeds and thistles, or the earth can produce vibrant, flourishing, and nourishing plant life.

What are we bringing forth?

To bring forth an abundance of good crops, the earth has to be worked. We have to till the soil. Remove the rocks, weeds, and hard clumps. We have to plant good seeds. We have to water the land. Tend it. Keep the ravagers and scavengers at bay.

It takes work to bring forth good crops. So, we must do...on ourselves.

It’s like purchasing a piece of property. It may be a bunch of scrub brush now, but you see it’s potential. You see what it can be...if you just work the land.

When we take an honest assessment of ourselves, we may see a bunch of weeds and scrub brush. We made some mistakes. We took a few missteps, and we came up short in a lot of ways.

The only way we can know this, however, is if we see what we could have been and can be. If we remember how YAHUAH created us, how He breathed a part of Himself into us, and we realize that He gave us tremendous gifts and talents, then we can see our true potential.

Seeing our potential brings us to sincere repentance.

Even if we weren’t “bad” this past year, we know we could’ve done better. We know we didn’t live up to our full potential.

Create a vision of who YAHUAH wants you to be. Be specific, and make it personal. What does YAHUAH want your life to look like? What does He want you to look like? What fruits does He want you to produce for His service?

Write it down.

Working the Earth

So now, we need to get to work. Work the land. Till the soil of our lives.

Make a statement of the person you will be in the coming year. How you will take a step to be more of the person YAHUAH expects you to be? How you will use your gifts, talents, and resources for His service?

Write it down...but be careful. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s a gradual process. Work only a small piece of the land at a time.

The adversary loves big commitments because he knows it's hard for us to keep them. He can easily make us fail and get discouraged.

Beat him at his own game and only make a small commitment, a simple statement of a simple way you will change and grow in the right direction.

For example, if you know YAHUAH desires you to be more committed in prayer, don’t say that you’ll pray for an hour three times a day if you only do ten minutes a day now.

Know what you’re capable of doing. Start with a small step - perhaps praying twice a day for ten minutes. Then, later on, increase to three times a day or to 20 minutes. Take steps.

This is teshuvah, moving from who you are to who you can be. Wherever we are, we can all take a step closer to becoming the Yahudi/te YAHUAH created us to be.

To recap:

  1. Take an assessment. Who were you, and what did your life look like in the past year?

  2. See your potential. Who did YAHUAH create you to be? What does He expect from you? What talents, resources, and gifts has He given you?

  3. Make a simple plan. What is one simple step you can take toward fulfilling your potential? How can you move closer to becoming who YAHUAH wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do? (If you write nothing else, write this one down.)

YAHUAH breathed the breath of life into us. He wants us to live - to grow, to change, and to produce.

When we become who YAHUAH created us to be and do what He created us to do, then we're truly living.

Otherwise, we're merely existing.

May your days be filled with teshuvah and your hearts filled with ahavas YAHUAH.

Shana tovah!


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