by Rabbi Ron Stern
Each fall I spend a semester teaching a new group of rabbinical students beginning their studies at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. It’s both a reminder of my own early, less experienced years as well as inspirational and refreshing to hear them struggle to find meaning in the Jewish tradition, assimilate ancient ideas with millennial sensibilities, and convey their insights to their congregants at their internships.
One of my students, Paige, integrated the core High Holy idea of teshuvah (personal change and growth) with a web site that pitches ten essential questions to subscribers. Once answered, the questions are “locked” from review for a year after which they are released to the individual. The idea is to see how one’s attitudes might have shifted over that time. In Paige’s estimation, answering ten questions pitched by www.doyou10Q.com creates the kind of introspective, longitudinal self-examination that reflects core principals of the Holy Days. I’m with her on that and I want to take it to another level that won’t involve subscribing to more email to clutter your inbox.
Here’s my spin on DoYou10Q.com: What questions would you pitch to yourself? There are ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. Ten questions for 10 days. What do you need to ask of yourself so that this year might be better than last? If you begin your questions with phrases like: “How might I…” or “How can I…” or “What would make me…” or “What do I need to do in order to….” As you’re sitting in temple or at home, driving in your car or working out, or doing whatever you do when you have time to think; compose your questions. Write them down, enter them in your phone, preserve them, and then start to answer them. Can’t do ten? Do what you can. Then, over the course of the next year, revisit them, expand your answers, and check yourself against your actual ambitions. I hope that you’ll find your answers motivating and hopefully achievable.
Judaism doesn’t demand perfection, but it does require perseverance. Forgive yourself when you fall short, goad yourself when you know you can do better. I’m hoping that this exercise will help make 5779 a good year for you and those you love. Shanah Tovah!