Connecting With the Spirit of the New Year

How do we prepare to feel refreshed, renewed and recharged at the start of the New Year?

 Cantor Shayna Postman

   Since we never know when inspiration may strike, we give ourselves lots of opportunities to allow it to happen.  This may include moments in quiet thought, meals surrounded by family and friends, and for some of us lots of time in synagogue joining together in prayer.

   We each come to services with different expectations. When seeking inspiration in our prayer services, making prayer personal helps a lot. Taking in the words of our high holiday prayer book (mahzor) and reflecting on them through the lens of our own personal experience may vastly deepens the time we pray together. It may even effect how we experience breathing together as we sing the prayers together, feeling something personal and communal at the same time.

   The synagogue may truly become a “sanctuary”, a safe space to reflect on the awe we may feel when we pay attention to the world around us. We may be open to acknowledging the range of our emotions from sadness to joy, disappointment to gratitude, fear to optimism.

   In one of our High Holiday prayers we recite that “Teshuvah, Tefillah and Tzedakah” may transform our future. If we internalize this prayer, we might take this as a potential recipe for preparing ourselves to enter the new year renewed: “Teshuvah” (return) we may reflect and examine our core values, and go through a process toward forgiveness of self and others; “Tefillah” (prayer) we strive to participate in personal and communal expression of awe, gratitude, and hope; and “Tzedakah” (acts of righteousness) we take an action toward truly living a life wherein our words and deeds reflect our values.

   Just as words may be inspiriting, so too the layered and varied melodic structure of the High Holiday services may help set different tones for retrospection, celebration, somberness and jubilation. Even the shofar blasts may be taken personally. When the blasts have personal meaning to each of us, they may awaken us to the task of introspection; they may beckon us to hear the cry of those in pain and in need. The sequence of notes: one blast, followed by three, then nine, and finally a whole blast again reflects that something whole breaks down until it shatters and then it becomes whole again, perhaps different than it was the first time.

   It is so moving that as a community, we work together, cheering on one another, to start the new year each committed to doing our part in making the world a better place. For me, prayer is a major inspiration in my life. The fact that I am committed to the discipline of Jewish prayer every day three times a day can’t help but have an impact in my psyche subconsciously and consciously regarding how I regard the world and how I aim to treat others and behave in the world.

   I love when people share with me how the act of prayer, or specific prayers, or how a new understanding of a certain word in a prayer may have helped them express a feeling or have led them to take a positive action. I invite each of us to challenge ourselves to pray with our whole selves, and to allow it to effect how we behave in the world. May this High Holiday season fill us with inspiration, renewal, healing and optimism in the new year. Shanah Tovah!